Many times, writers have someone they can share their book with, a mother, brother, sister or their best friend, to maybe get their response to it. That option doesn't always give them an honest appraisal of their work however, since family and friends might be inclined to praise without wanting to hurt someone's feelings. Then there are those who don't really have access to readers. Maybe their family isn't much interested or their friends don't really read and aren't particularly impressed even if their friend wrote it.
It wouldn't be too bad if a writer either was perfectly confident in their skills, or had the certainty that their writing was above average. That knowledge however, seems mighty elusive. Most writers I have encountered don't have even a vague confidence in their work. They might enjoy the process, it may have been a desire they harbored forever, but its hard to judge whether it impresses anyone else. So where do you go for a little advice, a little support, suggestions or just plain assurance you might be on the right track.
I was fortunate to stumble upon a group of writers from a variety of fields, backgrounds, and skills, who write in a variety of genres. It was in an entirely unexpected place, too; a discussion thread connected with a contest. There I met one of the finest groups of people I ever imagined. They have answered numerous questions, gave advice and suggested a number of websites and books to find information. The other great asset has been a few people we call Beta-Readers. Rather than edits and detailed proof reads, they approach it as a reader and give their impression. Are the characters believable? Does the dialog sound realistic? Is the pace good, the writing flow from one scene to another, no lulls that feel pointless? Just the general sort of thing which make readers not only read the first book but also look to the writer to offer them more.
The importance of this cannot be overstated. If the story is dull, or the character so one dimensional they feel phony, its not likely to be very successful. There are characteristics of a story which can make it work or not, and if you don't hit them, it would be almost pointless to bother with the effort of editing. Somehow, a new writer has to know where to begin to improve their work if they want it to develop into something worth publishing. So these readers are a godsend to give not only direction, but often a boost to keep going.
And there are other ways these fellow writers help out. Sharing tips for getting agents or publicity, soothing the ruffled feathers of rejections, encouraging them not to give up. It might just be a positive word, or maybe even a suggestion to help them along. For me, I was boosted up when a friend did a trailer for my book (See book trailer under Something Taken). Not only was I touched that they cared enough to do that for me, I was amazed and impressed because it was so good. Even if it hadn't been for my book, I still think it was one of the best trailers I've ever seen. All because a fellow writer took the time to care and to try to keep my spirits up. He succeeded spectacularly.
So this is just a note to all writers out there. Don't hesitate to reach out and help a fellow writer when they seem to be sinking in despair. The creation of a story isn't easy, and trying to get it out for others is often even more daunting. We all need a hand and an encouraging word now and then. Very few understand the process and no one else can write the story as the author would. Not only that, it is one field where those who have achieved success rarely take the time to mentor new authors. Perhaps the solitary nature of the beast doesn't lend itself to sharing their skills. Whatever the reason, sometimes we writers starting to explore the world of publishing just need to be willing to lend a little time to others so that maybe they'll find a reason to keep trying to improve.
I can't thank those that helped me enough, but I can try to pass on what they have offered to me. Even if I never become successful, maybe somehow, I might be able to say, I knew that author when they were struggling. And that would be a pretty good reward in itself. So if I can help, I will always try and I hope others share the spirit of assistance to their fellows because few others understand our lonely journey to creating a novel.