This is something I wrote for the Central New Jersey Region of NaNoWriMo, but I felt I had to cross-post here. Rather than just post a link, I am cutting and pasting the entire text.
It seems sometimes that you[Sharon, a fellow writer] and I are the only ones that read these posts or respond, but I assure you, there is an audience. And it is to that silent majority that I speak.
Folks, I understand that you write for different reasons.
Some is just catharsis – you put down words on paper so that it quits hijacking your short term memory and your processor cycles. You never want it to see the light of day, and, frankly, would never even let it be read, even if all identifying marks are taken off. This constant harrangue from me about Pitchapalooza, ABNA, Publication Track, and Writing Groups is annoying you. I apologize to you.
Others write, but are completely unsure of where they stand in the craft. You might be unnerved by the thought of having others read your work. You dread the paper that returns with so many red marks that it looks like a crime scene. [my wife’s reads of my works look like that] Yes, it’s a long road to publication. But you must take the first steps on that road. You will not get better on your own. No knife can sharpen itself. If you want to progress in the craft, you must be willing to take a step out of your comfort zone in order to grow. Writing groups help you with that – give you the chance to progress along the continuum from complete newbie to accomplished craftsman.
Creativity is a talent. All of us are afflicted with that spark that spins tales from formlessness. In our brains, somewhere, somehow, random electrical impulses trigger others until we become aware of a question, a scene, a character, or a plot. We stop whatever we’re doing and stare, blankly, into space, as our brains grab that thought, massage it, and come up with a structure. Where five minutes ago, there was nothing, now there is an idea. Where did it come from? We don’t care. We can feel the skin tightening on our scalp as the idea sinks into our brains, kicking off further actions, more characters, great tensions, epic dreams. This is what we live for. This is the lure of being a writer.
Then there’s the actual writing. The translation of a thought, an idea, a plot into a vehicle that can convey some shade of our creation to the mind of the reader. There are conventions to this. Setting, plot, characters, plot, climax, denoument. The craft of writing can be learned. That is what the whole Publication Track is about – the systematic learning of the craft of writing. I second what Sharon said above – that is the kind of feedback that you as a writer needs to create a salable work. As exciting as the creativity part is, it is matched and sometimes exceeded by the thrill of being published.
To this day, I remember with great fondness being asked to sign the first copy of my book (a software manual published in 1996). I still have a couple of copies. It feels so dang good that I want to have everyone I know experience that. One day, you come home, and there’s a package for you. You don’t remember ordering anything, but you open it up anyway. There, inside, is a copy of your work. You open the cover, and begin to read. Nothing else matters. You can’t put it down until you go over again, in print for the first time, your story. You think back to the first time you got the creative spark that formed the story, the long hours actually writing the tale, and the many more hours spend shaping it to its form. And here it is, in ink on paper. No longer double-spaced Courier font on eight and a half by eleven, single sided, and ready for the red flow pen. No, it’s all grown up, on its own, tested, bronzed, and bearing your mark.
This, this is what I want you to experience. The irrational urge to run out in the street and shout “I wrote this! It is a great story! You have to read this!” Even years later, paging through it, a glow will infuse you. The details of its creation may fade, but you will never forget the first time you held your work in your hands.
This experience is open to all. If you’ve ever felt the tug of a story that must be told, you know what I mean. It is the most rewarding thing you can do. Join a writing group. Bring them your work. They have experience with writers at all levels. Give that story that begs to be told the skill and craft that it needs to be shipped not just to your house, but to others throughout the world. Do it. Come to Publication Track events. Sign up for Duotrope and send your work out to publishers. Come walk this trail with me. I want to be the one they interview when you, the next JKRowling, are discovered. For I am sure that no matter how far down this path I go, you can go further than I. I urge you to do it.