This has been a terrible, sad, utterly heartbreaking week in the world. Bombings, earthquakes, explosions, shootings… and these are just the things getting international attention. It’s also been a really inspirational week, between the bravery and quick action of the first responders and police, the kindness of those opening their homes to those in need after the Boston Marathon and the explosion in West, and the general sense of community between everyone who hasn’t shown themselves to be racist d-bags.

For a lot of us, though, there’s a really pervasive feeling of uselessness in times of tragedy. I can’t give blood. Opening my home is not that helpful to someone who lost theirs 2,000 miles away. So instead, I’m going to focus on this:

Life is short. If you’re reading this blog, you probably know what it’s like to have a goal, a dream, because you’re either a writer or my mom. You also probably need to be reminded – and to remind others – that there is good in the world. To that end, here are some suggestions for how to do writerly good, help people achieve their dreams, and generally just make another writer’s day better.

  • Congratulate them on their successes. I love seeing good news on Twitter. It makes my freaking day. So is it a little creepy when I tweet congratulations to people I don’t even know, just because it got RTed into my feed? Maybe. But the thing is, for as much as they’re strangers, they’re not at all strangers – they’re me. They’re you. They’re people who had dreams of getting an agent or getting a book deal and then achieved it. Every writer’s success is your success. Not as much as it is theirs, obviously, but the knowledge that these things are achievable, that they happen, that people who made this dream happen exist should make your freaking life. And, even if it doesn’t, it’s just a nice thing to do!
    • Retweet, reblog, host, and interview. There’s nothing more important for a fiction writing than getting good words on the page; no agent or editor would ever deny that. If the choice comes down to writing a blog post or writing a chapter, for the love of God, write the chapter. BUT, having an Internet presence of some sort is definitely a plus (unless your Internet presence makes it clear you’re a terrible person no one would ever want to work with), and it’s something many agents and editors look for when signing a client.

The good news is, it’s really easy to help a new writer create one. If you’re an established writer or blogger, consider having someone who’s less so guest post on your blog, or interview them, or let them interview you. Answer their questions as you see them arise. Publicize them, introduce them to others, and welcome them with open arms.

  • Beta/crit something. Honestly. Whether it’s a query, a Twitter pitch, or a full manuscript, just do your best to help someone make their work the best it can be. And while cheerleading is nice, and you should never crit someone’s work in a way that makes them feel like crap, critique is only really helpful if it’s honest. So put on your critical thinking caps, take a little time out of your day, and help turn a good piece of work into an awesome one.
  • Recommend and review. These things are self-explanatory, yes? If you read a book and loved it, spread the word! Preferably in multiple locations!
  • Buy books! Another no-brainer, but it always seems worth a mention – financial support is important support, not just because it earns money for authors and publishers and keeps bookstores going (which are also all really important things) but because those sales numbers help tell booksellers “Get more of this!” and “See how much money you can make selling books? Keep doing that!” Bonus points for supporting an indie bookstore if you can afford it!
  • Request books. Even if you can’t afford to support other authors financially, do it by letting libraries and bookstores know that they’re wanted. See a book you’d love to own not being stocked in B&N or your local library? Head up to that front desk and ask that they order it.
  • Keep newer writers informed. Having been around for a while, I know who to follow on Twitter for information like when writers’ contests are coming up (Brenda Drake, Cupid, and AuthoressAnon, by the way), but a lot of newer writers don’t. Make sure they have access to those important opportunities by spreading the word.

And to that end, I’ll leave off by mentioning that details of this years The Writers’ Voice contest are up! As you may know, TWV is the contest that got me my agent last year, and it was also a wonderful experience that introduced me to some fantastic fellow writers. If you have a manuscript that’s polished and ready to go, I can’t recommend a contest more highly, especially considering this year’s agent lineup!

So, go forth, be awesome, and help someone achieve a dream. The world needs more good news!