Insecure Writers, Here's Your Support Group! — An Interview with Alex J. Cavanaugh
Author communities, groups, forums, alliances and collectives are developing and proliferating at enormous speed as writers seem to be both excited by the new publishing world and worried it’s gotten too big and competitive to navigate on their own.
Some groups focus on the writing, and have their members critique and hone each other’s writing skills. Others focus on the publishing options, and particularly the DIY one. Many mix both.
When I first heard about the Insecure Writers Support Group, I liked the fact that it was both targeted (it’s for insecure writers) and open to all (mainstream, hybrid, indie). By clearly stating its purpose, IWSG fosters more transparent and open conversations around it.
Today, we interview Alex J. Cavanaugh, sci-fi author and founder of IWSG.
Hi Alex, great to have you here. Firstly, how did you start the Insecure Writers Group?
Thanks, Ricardo! I started it after making a random comment to another author that he needed such a group. The idea caught fire and in September 2011, we launched the group. Everyone posts the first Wednesday of the month, either about their insecurities, breakthroughs, or triumphs, and then they visit other blogger to encourage them. In September 2013, we launched the IWSG website and the IWSG Facebook group. Last year we joined forces with another Facebook group and formed the IWSG Critique Circle and we put together a book, The Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s Guide to Publishing and Beyond.
There is a cliché that all authors are insecure about their writing, at least in their early years. Do you think there’s any truth behind that?
Absolutely! Writing is such a personal and creative thing, and we all have doubts about our abilities. I’ve yet to meet a writer who thought he rocked right out of the box.
What’s your ambition for IWSG? You’ve added a lot of resource materials and some conversations are now more focused on tips and tricks for writing, marketing and publishing (as is the case in most author communities). Do you want to keep the “support” as core value in the group, or do you see it branching out?
The tips and tricks are all part of the support. We can provide support through those posts and the database we maintain.
I want to see this group grow on all fronts – blog participants, followers, and Facebook members. I want the site to become THE database of databases for writers. I’d also like to start a newsletter in the near future. Whatever we can do to connect authors and offer help.
Orna Ross has been quoted saying: “A few years ago, writing was a very solitary profession. Now, I believe it’s one of the most social ones.” Is IWSG a good example of that?
One of the best! Many members say IWSG post day is their favorite of the month and they receive so much encouragement – and give it. We’ve brought together so many writers, connecting them as friends, critique partners, and doorways to other opportunities.
Do you think a lot of fantastic writing has never seen the light of day because writers didn’t get the moral support they needed when they doubted themselves?
I’m sure there is some great writing hidden in the drawers of the world. It’s sad when writers don’t get support at home and can’t find connections elsewhere. Yes, you do have to have a thick skin and a strong drive, but everyone needs a boost now and then.
Have you ever had to face writer’s block or self-doubt, and how did you overcome those?
I’ve not really faced writer’s block. By the time I begin writing, I’ve had months to plan and form a detailed outline. Self-doubt has come with each new book I’ve written. Will my publisher accept it? Will fans like it? Will new fans find it? Between my fan base, friends, and the IWSG, everyone has pushed me through those doubts.
I like the image of the lighthouse. It’s one we’ve been using at Reedsy too. I feel like the waters of self-publishing are very unsure at the moment, almost impossible to navigate without first going through a very painful learning curve. What problems out there would you like to see startups like us try to address?
I think letting writers know the process and the steps from writing to publication would give them an idea of what to expect. Just being able to connect with those who can help them is a big bonus with your site.
One of our coming posts will be on author bundles. Do you think, like Mark Coker, that 2015 will be the year of collaboration between indie authors?
I think it’s already happening. I know many self-published authors who have gotten together and created bundles. It’s a great way to gain more exposure.
One of the things I’d really like to see, also, is more collaboration between indies, hybrids and mainstreams. Do you see something like this happening anytime soon, and what form could it take?
I’d like to see that as well. The IWSG book was a collaboration, as we had a mixture of all three types of authors. I think the main thing would be working together and helping one another, and that could involve a lot of things – books, websites, tours, etc. After all, no matter the path, we’re all authors.
Thanks again for the opportunity, Ricardo!
What do you personally think of the proliferation of communities, groups and alliances? Has being an author become one of the most social professions? Do you think insecure writers can benefit from a “support group”? Do join the conversation in the comments below!