Separate from a beta reader, writing partners are there to keep each other honest. Note, I’m not speaking of a co-writer for a project. More like an accountability buddy.
A writing partner should:
- make sure that their partner is on track with their current writing project
- offer up advice as necessary
- beta read/critique work as it gets submitted back and forth
- chat often: either online or in person
- be a shoulder to lean on when writing is hard, or when you get another rejection
This partnership should be 100% mutual. Both people should put forth the same amount of effort into helping one another. If one person cares more than the other, only one person benefits (and the partner who doesn’t benefit will be pretty upset).
There’s some pros and cons to consider before beginning the search for a critique partner:
- With a good partner, you will get great feedback for your WIP.
- They will keep you honest, making sure that you’re actually writing something and not just saying you are (nudge, me*).
- They are there to support you through thick and thin, success and failure.
- Your partnership could very easily turn into a FRIENDship
- Your partner may give harsher critiques than you’re used to, or that you’re ready for in your own work.
- Life does get in the way for everyone, and it may come that when you need your partner most, they’re focused in on their own problems.
- Your partner may also think they’re invested in this partnership but later determine that’s untrue. But instead of being honest about it, they continue to half-ass any further communication.
I’ve never had one single writing partner before. I’ve taken part in so many critique groups, as my creative writing seminars in college were 10-12 people with one turn in due every other week. This could be a poem (or poems), a short story, or a book chapter of a WIP.
MOST of the people were respectful, turning in NO MORE than 10 pages of work. Others would turn in their 20+ page chapter of high fantasy (even though they knew after their last critique that over half the people in the class were not helpful with critiquing high fantasy pieces) and we’d end up with 5 days to read and comment on an 80+ page packet. UGH.
(I may have done it ONCE. But I learned my lesson):
Having ONE writing partner though, is a significantly better idea if you’re looking for some really in-depth feedback on your work. Which ultimately is the biggest pro of all.
Of course, one writing partner shouldn’t replace beta readers. You want beta readers who both do and don’t write their own stuff. You’ll benefit by having non-writers take in your book as a whole because they tend to be the people you’re marketing to. They’ll have a completely different perspective on the book than someone who knows their way around words.
Some tips for finding a good partner:
- I’d recommend making sure your time zones are somewhat compatible. It’s one thing to be 3 hours apart, it’s another to be 12.
- Make sure your method of communication is agreed on between both of you. If you want a partner to Skype with you, make that clear. Same if you prefer in-person meetings, email, Facebook chat, etc.
- You want a partner who enjoys either writing or reading the same genre that you’re writing in. This should be mutual. If I write mainstream humor stories and my partner writes fantasy, it can work IF (and only if) both partners are interested in reading the opposite genres.
- Don’t try to convince yourself that you can critique a genre you don’t like. You’d be much better suited to finding a partner who does write a genre you truly enjoy reading.
- You want somewhat similar personalities. Like, I will probably send you stupid puns with every email I respond to. Seriously, how many references to a friendSHIP do I make total in this post? If that bothers you, we’re probably not compatible.
- Also, you want to make sure that someone’s critiquing style works for you. It could be beneficial to each send a short chapter or snippet that you want feedback on and see how their suggestions/comments look and read. Are you offended by them? Find another partner. Are they super constructive and you’re thrilled by the feedback? Hopefully that is a mutual feeling because that’s what you want!
I think it’s hard to convince yourself that you need or want a writing partner. It means your writing isn’t private anymore. You have to put it out there for someone you may barely know yet. You have to stick to deadlines. You can’t post on Twitter about writing 5,000 words in one day but really have stared a blank page while you peruse Facebook on your phone. #amwriting #not
But if the ultimate dream is publication, and you’re ready to really focus in on your writing, then it may be time to consider finding a partner.
(Plus, if your partner gets published, YOU’LL be on their acknowledgement page!)
Do you have a writing partner? Are you considering finding one now?
Use the comments thread below and tell us what you’re looking for in a partner. If you’re interested in someone, reply on their thread, grab contact info from their blog, etc.. Let’s create some friendships!