The Importance of Building A Community - AKA Get yourself a Petty DM Buddy
Writing is tough.
Writing as a member of a marginalized/underrepresented group? Tougher.
Writing as a member of multiple marginalized/underrepresented groups? Well, you get the picture.
The path to publishing, especially traditional publishing, is often long and rarely linear. It can be lonely. It can be frustrating. Annoyingly opaque. And there’ll be times you want to quit. How do you deal with all the ups and downs of this industry that claims to be merit-based (but we all know the truth)?
Build yourself a #community.
Below, I’ll talk about a few specific people/groups that you’ll need and why they’re so important for you, your career, and ultimately, your peace of mind. There’s a lot of intersection in these groups, so if you have one who fulfills all these needs, congrats!
Your Cheerleaders/Hype Crew
There will be a time when you think you suck, your writing sucks, and that you’ll never find an agent/publisher/etc. When you’ll want to quit writing, because what’s the point? There will be a time when your dreams come true and you get an agent/sell a book, only for imposter syndrome, fear, doubt, and anxiety to assail you and tell you that you’re not good enough. That your book is garbage and going to fail and that you’ll never be able to sell anything again. This is where your cheerleader/hype crew steps in to let you know how awesome you are.
They talk you through your low moments. They scream and celebrate with you over all your achievements, big and small. They will shout about you and your book all over their social media and push it into random people’s hands at bookstores. It’s your hype crew (and very possibly your therapist, but that’s a different topic for a different time) that will get you through these rough patches and get you excited about your writing again. They’re also usually the ones to recommend you in articles and send writing opportunities your way. These people are precious. Appreciate them.
Your Whisper Network
It’s a sad fact that not everyone in this industry has your best interests in mind.
Just like any other profession, there are users, abusers, racists, homophobes, transphobes, misogynists, and other such prejudiced individuals. Writers are often so hungry to get published, they’ll sign a contract with anybody, not knowing there are vultures out there ready to prey on that desire and vulnerability. And considering how little transparency there is in publishing, it’s hard to separate friend from foe, petty gossip from a critical warning.
Women have always had to do this, but it’s just as crucial for marginalized writers to have their own network because the problems we have are so specific to us. It’s not fair that we have to not only deal with issues of racism and prejudice on top of trying to make it in an extremely difficult industry, but that’s our reality. Which is why the next group is key.
Your Petty DM Buddies
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to post your every thought to social media.
However, there will be certain topics/news/etc. you will be bursting to comment on, or that will stir up feelings of anger/jealousy/envy/all that fun stuff. Before you run your mouth in public, get thee to your Petty DM Buddy and let it out in private first. Not only will you get the relief of having someone to talk to about the issue, they can save you from showing your ass in a poorly thought-out hot take, which could affect which writers/agents/editors/reviewers want to work with you.
Here’s a tip: Ranting about/attacking people who leave you 4-star Goodreads reviews is a bad look. Keep that ish private. Which brings me to...
Your Call-in Crew
This one is particularly important and a true way to know if someone is your friend or just a writing acquaintance. While it’s good to have a Petty DM Buddy, you need people in your life who care enough about you and your growth to let you know when you’re showing your ass. Who care enough to let you know that you messed up and want you to learn and be better.
Do not underestimate the importance of a person invested enough in you and your career to not only call you on your shit, but trust that you’re not wasting their time and energy in doing so.
This work is exhausting, so if you have someone in your life who does this for you, EMBRACE THEM. Thank them. Get them a fruit basket or something. We don’t do this for just anyone. My energy levels and tolerance for BS get lower and lower as time goes on, so I refuse to waste time “educating” someone who I don’t think is worth the effort. Harsh? Not at all. You’ve gotta look out for yourself and protect your energy. Burn out is all too real, and it affects BIPOC and other marginalized people at higher rates than cishet White people.
So there you have it. #Publishing is a marathon and we’ve lost too much talent to the rat race already. But surrounding yourself with the right people goes a long way in making sure that you not only get published, but STAY published. Longevity is the name of the game, and I wish us all nothing but the best. Good luck out there!
Mia P. Manansala
Author & Book Coach
Author of Arsenic and Adobo (Berkley/Penguin Random House May 4, 2021)
Mia P. Manansala (MAH-nahn-sah-lah) (she/her) is a writer and book coach from Chicago who loves books, baking, and bad-ass women. She uses humor (and murder) to explore aspects of the Filipino diaspora, queerness, and her millennial love for pop culture.
She is the winner of the 2018 Hugh Holton Award, the 2018 Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award, the 2017 William F. Deeck - Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers, and the 2016 Mystery Writers of America/Helen McCloy Scholarship. She's also a 2017 Pitch Wars alum and 2018-2020 mentor.
A lover of all things geeky, Mia spends her days procrastibaking, playing JRPGs and dating sims, reading cozy mysteries, and cuddling her dogs Gumiho, Max Power, and Bayley Banks (bonus points if you get all the references).
Her debut novel, ARSENIC AND ADOBO, comes out May 4, 2021 (TODAY!) with Berkley/Penguin Random House and is the first in the Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mystery series.
Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @MPMtheWriter
Arsenic and Adobo: ORDER HERE.
Mia's Book Coaching Services: VIEW HERE.