Want to Write a Book? It Takes Friends

By Sharon Page
I'm working on my 15th book and my 12th book, Engaged in Sin, a sexy historical romance releases Nov. 1.

I broke rules when I sold my first books. My very first sale was to Ellora's Cave, a small press doing digital and print books. They were new and getting buzz for erotic romance. I sent my first three chapters, but without a synopsis/outline. I didn't know where the story was going, but I thought: they will either like the writing or they won't. Fortunately, they did like it and requested the whole book. I wrote it quickly--in ten weeks--but I had to write Chapter 4 over 10 times to start the rest of the book right. Not having an outline had come back and booted me in the rear.

When I made my first sale to a New York based publisher, I only had one chapter and the outline completed. On the strength of that proposal, I got my agent at BookEnds, and was too nervous to admit I didn't have the whole book finished. That was a rule I was not supposed to break as a new writer--I was supposed to pitch a finished book.

Do I think writers should break rules? Hard to say. Sometimes it works for you, sometimes it doesn't. But I think what got me published was not breaking rules, it was learning from writer friends.

My early critique partners taught me how to write a synopsis. They suffered through my first attempts and gave me pearls of wisdom (that took me years to completely understand) such as "you want to sell the book". How hard is that to grasp? Quite a bit, I discovered when I was wedded to my flawed plot. It took me a long time to understand I had to make the summary of the book sound exciting, not just recite the plot.

Writer friends are those great friends are happy to sit, drink wine, and dissect the brilliant storytelling in "Mulan". Or the friends who can understand why you're excited to see hoof prints in the sand track in Hyde Park. I met writers who gave generously of their knowledge through workshops. When I was just starting out, author Kate Douglas passed along the name of her agent, and let many of we fledgling erotic romance authors know that New York was opening new lines. Kate has said that her motto was to "pay it forward". I write romance and am fortunate to say that I belong to an industry where many people do pay if forward.

If you are writing a book, one of the best things you can do is develop a network of writer friends. They are the most precious resource you can have. And it feels wonderful when you can be the one to help, to be a mentor and a friend.

Where have friends really helped you? If you are a writer, what has been "the wind beneath your wings"?

(The photo at the top was taken by me on the moors of Dartmoor, during a research trip to England with writer friends.)

USA Today bestselling author Sharon Page's latest Regency-set historical romance in Engaged in Sin from Dell Books (Random House). Her latest erotic vampire romance, Wicked for Christmas, is the lead story in the anthology "Silent Night, Sinful Night" from Kensington Aphrodisia. Sharon is on the web at www.sharonpage.com.


  1. I released my first book in August on Kindle and Nook, then in paperback during September. If not for about 10 friends, the book would never have gotten past first draft. They were my beta readers.

    When I published, serveral friends supported me by buying the book. Many spread the word to Facebook friends. THey are with me every step of the way. Book 2 comes out in late November or early December.

    The wind beneath my wings was my husband. He has listened to every chapter (more than once), patiently waiting while I contact just one more blooger or reviewer before dinner, picked up the slack while I put on one of the many hats an indie author has to wear. WIthout him, my wings are clipped.

  2. Hi Caddy
    Congratulations on having your first book out, and the second on the way.

    My husband was hugely supportive too, and did so much to make it possible for me to get published. I haven't cooked dinner for a long time.

  3. You are so very right, Sharon. Friends and other supportive writers are essential. Friends to cheer you on and pick you up when you're down are important, of course, but when it comes to becoming a better writer a bit of "tough love" is also necessary. I'm not published (yet), but I joined the Internet Writing Workshop back in May of this year and I consider it the best decision I ever made in terms of honing the craft. The diversity of the critics and the material in this group is so enriching. It's not always a "rah-rah" scene--tough stuff gets pointed out and, like you said, it takes a while for us to realize how right others are. But it's always polite and insightful. I think the hardest thing as a writer is to learn to open up and take others' feedback into consideration. You don't need to agree, but there's always something to learn.


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