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(How I picture the Writer Unboxed Community. Look at that glow!)

If it takes a village to raise a child, it requires a community to create a book.

If you are a part of the Writer Unboxed UnConference alumni group, you probably know I had a book launch this week. But what you may not know is that DARLING GIRL is my second book. My first, EVENFALL, came out 11 years ago. 

Yes, you read that right. 

That first book was a quiet one, and although I received some lovely reviews, it slowly sank from sight. But, hey, I wasn’t ALL that worried. I’d sold a book, so how hard could it be to sell another?

You already know where this is going. It was pretty damn hard. 

Part of that was me — I didn’t write a new manuscript quickly enough. My kids were young, I was still freelancing for paid assignments, and writing a second book, which might have benefited from being one of my top priorities, fell to the bottom of my list. And then when I finally did finish it, my agent felt, rightly, it was too long and cumbersome. I cut it in half, cut it again, then hired an editor to help me trim it once more. 

Despite my best efforts, it didn’t sell. Maybe my first book had been a fluke, a one-off. Maybe I wasn’t a writer after all. 

I went to a WU UnConference and felt, at first, like a fraud. And then I went to the open mike night and listened to people reading their work — people brave enough to get up and share the stories they’d created, whose work blew me away. I discussed craft with people who were brilliant and whose grasp of how to write was nuanced and profound. I talked sales and strategies and marketing with authors who had years of experience. 

Some of these people were unpublished, some self-published. Some were with big houses, and some used a hybrid platform.

All of them were writers. 

It was inspiring at a time when I desperately needed inspiration. It gave me the courage to amicably part ways with my agent, to start a new book, to believe I could tell a story again.

But the Writer Unboxed community gave me more than the motivation to take my writing seriously. It also gave me concrete tools. I’m terrified that I’ll forget to mention someone, so I’m not naming names here, but members helped me with plotting my next book. With figuring out character motivation. With revising. With seeing with fresh eyes what needed to be changed in the eighth, ninth, and tenth draft. 

When I queried new agents and received requests for fulls but no offers, Writer Unboxed members were there to pick me up, to encourage me not to give up, to tell me to write another draft and try again. 

They were there to cheer me on when I landed my dream agents. To encourage me when I went through yet ANOTHER round of drafts with them.

And to celebrate loudly and wildly when, after a decade, my second book finally came out. 

I am beyond lucky to be a part of this group. Which is why my advice to anyone who asks me how to write a book is two simple pieces: To write a book, you have to put the time in, and it helps to have a community.

The caveat is that sense of belonging, of camaraderie, doesn’t develop in a day.  It takes time to form — maybe not a decade, but still, some passage of time is required. And it is a bit like a bank — you can’t take out expertise and advice without putting something in first. 

So support your fellow writers. Comment on their posts. Engage in craft discussions, virtual and otherwise. Offer to critique a manuscript, to monitor comments on the blog, to welcome new members. 

Look for safe ways to meet in real life. Commiserate with writers on their bad days, and rejoice with them in their successes. Buy their books. Read their books. Promote their books. 

Because someday, if you are lucky, as I have been, it will be you with a new book out. And I hope you’ll realize what I have —that publication, if it comes, is wonderful, but the friendships developed along the way are even better.

Thank you, Writer Unboxed, for being my village. 

Now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite memory of the Writer Unboxed Community?


About Liz Michalski

Liz Michalski's (she/her) second novel, Darling Girl, will be published May, 2022 by Dutton. Her first novel, Evenfall, was published by Berkley Books (Penguin). Liz has been a reporter, an editor, and a freelance writer. In her previous life, she wrangled with ill-tempered horses and oversized show dogs. These days she's downsized to one husband, two children and a medium-sized mutt.

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