28 April 2009

How to find your perfect writing partner

Writing collaboratively can be a fantastic experience. However, you don’t necessarily need to work on the same project with someone to benefit from having a writing partner.

Rather than team up with another writer to produce a joint story, script or series of articles, why not use their knowledge and experience to better your own work? And, of course, you can do likewise for them.

Because I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, writing can be a solitary pursuit. Rather than lurk in the shadows of your study for hours, days or weeks on end, find yourself a writing partner instead. Develop a good working relationship another writer and reap the rewards.

Why do I need a writing partner?

Good question.  You might not need a writing partner. If you’re able to write a novel or churn out blog articles without the slightest dip in quality or any editorial guidance, that’s just brillio.

Seriously, top work. Some people love the introspective side of the writing process and can produce high-quality work consistently. And that’s great. However, it doesn’t apply to everyone.

A lot of writers need some form of guidance, whether it’s basic editorial help or problems related to confidence and motivation. We get incredibly close to our work and it can be tough to find that guidance from within.

A writing partner helps to take the pressure off. They provide both practical advice and an outlet for your ideas and frustrations. It’s a real commitment from both parties, but a good partnership can help you to take your writing to the next level.

It can even be the difference between completing a project and abandoning it mid-flight.

Finding ‘the one’ – the three Ts

I know some writers who have had the same writing partner for several years, but my experience with partners has typically been project-specific. Basically, see what works best for you. But don’t stick with the same writing partner if the relationship isn’t helping your writing.

When trying to find a partner,  I think that there are three criteria thatmnust be met. Conveniently, they all begin with the letter ‘T’.

Trust

When you have a writing partner, you have to put your faith in their judgement. That doesn’t mean  you have to go with every amend or suggestion that they give you, but you should trust them enough to know that any critique is done with thought and careful consideration.

Likewise, if you’re providing feedback or emotional support for another writer, you’re in a position of genuine responsibility. Don’t let the partnership down by abusing that trust. You only get what you give, as they say.

You have to enter the relationship with agreed expectations and work together to make sure that you’re both getting what you need out of it. You have to be able to trust your writing partner. It’s essential.

Time

The most practical of the three Ts and arguably the most important. Before you agree to working with a writing partner, you need to know that the other person has the time to commit fully.

This is particularly relevant if you’re working to deadlines. The last thing you want is to be relying on your partner to proofread your work the week of submission, only to find that they’ve not got the time or resources to give you the support you need.

To avoid this happening, you need to agree how much time each of you is expected to invest in the partnership from the outset. Don’t get caught out by not establishing the finer details of your relationship.

Talent

Sometimes the easy option is to share your work with a friend or family member. I’d say that unless that friend or family member is a working writer, or at a similar stage to you in their writing career, don’t bother.

You wouldn’t ask them to fix your pipes (so to speak) unless they were qualified, so don’t ask them for detailed feedback on your writing unless they know what they’re doing.

You can only benefit from a writing partner if their support, technical or otherwise, is of a high quality. If you find that you disagree with all of their suggestions, the partnership isn’t working.

Similarly, if you don’t enjoy or believe in your partner’s writing, you might want to try someone else. The process should be positive, a pleasure even, so don’t get held back by a lack of talent. Harsh, I know. But true.

Where to find your writing partner

So, you’ve decided you need a writing partner, but you’ve no idea where to find one. Here are just a few suggestions. Please feel free to expand on this list in the comments section.

A postgraduate writing course

I use this example first because it’s where I met and worked with other writers the most. Postgraduate writing courses are expensive, but you know that your classmates will be like-minded and committed to the cause. Also, having been through a strict vetting process to get on the course, they should also know what they’re talking about.

Writing groups

Writing groups are all around us. Google ‘writing groups’ in your local area and see what you find. Hopefully, they’ll have a website and contact information.

Online forums

Popular over recent years, there are many writing-related forums on the web. I’m a member over at the Editor Unleashed forum, although I’ve not used it for partner purposes, I must admit. And yes, I need to post more.

Social networks

Yup, turns out social networking does have real-life benefits. Truth is, there are writers talking to each other and teaming up every day through social networks. Twitter is the place to be at the moment, but there are other networks to look at, including LinkedIn, Virb and of course, Facebook.

One-off courses

A one-off course is a great way of improving your craft and learning new skills. However, it’s also a fantastic way to meet other writers. In the UK, there are the Arvon Foundation courses, or you can even pack your bags and head for the sun on a writing break, like the one offered by Joanna Young from Confident Writing.

Book groups

Potentially, a long shot this one. But if you’re part of a book group, there might well be a closet scribe amongst you that you weren’t aware of. It’s up to you to seek ‘em out.

And finally…

It’s worth reiterating, writing partners aren’t for everyone. However, you never know until you try these things. I’ve benefited hugely in the past from having someone there to check my work and keep me going. Give it a try – you might have a similar experience.

16 Comments

  1. That is some great tips for finding a writing buddy!

    Fortunately I’ve been blessed with the advice and critique of my sister who is a professional writer.

    I wouldn’t class myself as a serious writer, however I do enjoy writing and unfortunately don’t write enough.

    When I pass along any new piece of writing to my sister, I await with baited breath on what she will say about it. It is always a wonderfull learning experience (even the frightful red ink corrections) but I have seen marked improvements in my writing and editing.

    I’m off now to check for some short term writing courses around my local area.

    Cheers!

  2. It never occurred to me about finding a writing partner, but whenever the hectic schedule kicks in, I always hope I could have a partner, or team.. even a clone would sound as better. lol..

    Good advice by the way. I guess what matters to me is the trust, and the writing skills that I’m comfortable with.

    Have a nice trip ahead Joanna, take care.

    @wchingya
    Social Media/Blogging

  3. Interesting post Iain, and thanks for mentioning our Sardinian writing space… I have to confess I’m mainly a solitary writer, although whenever I do write in company I do enjoy it, and experiment with new styles and forms. Maybe there’s a lesson there ;-)

  4. Iain,

    Great post. I tend to be solitary like Joanna. Your words of wisdom have given me pause, however. I’ve got some ideas for folks from my community, maybe I’ll give them a shout.

    I’ll let you know.

    Cheers

    George

  5. A supportive group of fellow writers is so important. I’ve taught a critiquing workshop for Mt. Hood Community College in Portland, Oregon for several years now and I see the benefits of positive, honest feedback all the time. I can’t imagine trying to write a book without the core of partners that developed from these workshops. Thanks for your post!

  6. I’m fortunate to have found my perfect writing partner. It actually happened just a few weeks after I started my first blog. I had taken the name Writer Dad which apparently David Wright had wanted, but had yet to register. He chose Blogger Dad instead. We’ve been writing together since September and it is a truly prosperous creative partnership. Great post. Thank you.

  7. Iain (Author)

    @Mark It certainly can be daunting when you hand your work over to someone else, and that’s why trust is so important. Sounds like you have a handy helper there! Good luck with the search – come back and tell us how you got on.

    @Ching Ya Yes, a writing partner really does come in handy when the pressure is on, because that’s when you need them the most. And a team isn’t a bad idea. Working in groups may not have the personal touch of a single writing partner, but it can still work.

    @Joanna I’m pretty solitary myself really. As I say, it tends to depend on the project. It was primarily in the last few months of writing my novel that I really used (in a good way) a partner. Give it a go and report back!

    @Tumblemoose As good a place as any! Let me know how it goes if you give it a try.

    @Cindy Positive, honest feedback – that’s what it’s all about. As long as the criticism is constructive, getting a fresh perspective from another writer is of great value.

    @Writer Dad Great stuff, sounds like you’ve got it made there. As with all relationships in life, sometimes the right one comes along without you searching for it!

    Thanks for all your comments so far!

  8. A really good post you have here, Iain.

    Being a Roleplayer, I have done a lot of writing with others. Generally, however, it has been a case of each person in the group controlling an individual character (and taking their viewpoint) and working together to construct the story etc.

    In this respect, which is admittedly a little bit different to your approach here, I would certainly say the ‘Three T’s’ also play a big part. Especially talent. At least, in my opinion.

    There has been one place where I roleplay on occasion ( http://www.althanas.com ) where the end of each story or plot arc is ‘judged’ by one of the other members. In this they give feedback and suggestions for improvement. In general, that gives a good insight and has proven helpful to me. Though, yet again, talent seems to play a part here too primarily: I’ve had people tell me that sentences with an ‘unusual’ structure are incorrect, despite that not being the case.

    Overall, however, I enjoy collaborative writing and will look into develop a more ‘formal’ and critical-based writing partnership with another writer, and see how things go. Of course, I will let you know how things go. :)

    Matt

  9. I never even though about having a writing partner. Since I’m not a writer by trade and still struggle with it sometimes with my blog, I can determinately use one.

  10. Hi, Ian:
    I really like this post. The idea of “me, alone,” has probably kept more good books from being written than the more commonly mentioned “don’t have the time.”

    There are alternatives to keeping your ideas to yourself. The main point is to use your ideas to build your personal brand, and how you do it is less important.

    I’ve interviewed hundreds of very successful business and marketing authors, and a high percentage have depended on their writing partners to get their books published in a timely manner.

    Best wishes, Roger

  11. peter bartholomew

    Hi Iain… I feel that a writing partner is the code breaker I wish to work with…. can you help me
    THANKS Peter

Trackbacks for this post

  1. Motivate Yourself to Write | 1Writersway
  2. She Set Me On Fire « The Accidental Cootchie Mama
  3. Writing: Collaboration | Books by Erica Cameron

Leave a Reply