Some might think that writing is a lonely solo kind of career. That authors lock themselves in a room for days on end or escape to a log cabin in the middle of nowhere to write. Well, those things probably do happen. One needs focus to finish writing a novel, but once that rough draft is done it’s time to re-enter the land of the living. This is the point where a good writing partner or writing group come in handy.
So maybe you’re asking “Why would I even need a writing partner or a group? I am (S)He-(Wo)Man, queen/king of writing! I need no help!” While that may be true (hey, I don’t know the level of your writing skills) I say a partner and/or a group can only help.
A good writing partner should be able to help you through the initial rough draft writing if you’ve explained your ideas and the plot to them in detail. Of course you can always turn to them for general questions on point of view, questions on locations, foods, weapons, fighting styles, grammar, etc. If your partner has the time, you may want to send them a chapter at a time to get their thoughts on what’s going on (I would hold off on asking for editing type read throughs until the rough draft is complete). That back and forth between you and your writing partner can be really beneficial if you find yourself stuck, unsure of where the story should go.
When it comes time to beta read, a writing partner is one of the best people to turn to. They know you. They know your writing style. More than likely, you’ve discussed aspects of the story and characters with them as you were writing the rough draft. Also, you should be able to trust them to be honest with you and let you know if something doesn’t work. They’re less likely to come back with cruel comments about your writing.
A writing group is a bit of a different kind of monster. When you belong to a writing group, you’re mixed in with a bunch of different kind of writers. They don’t necessarily need to write the same genre as you, but I think it can be helpful. Groups tend to meet on a monthly basis and people get together, talk about their current projects and more than likely do a reading of a scene or a chapter. This is helpful for several reasons.
1) Instant feedback. You’re not sitting at home refreshing your email waiting for a beta reader to get back to you with notes.
2) More than one opinion at a time. Not everyone’s going to love your work. It just might not be their kind of story, but that’s important for you to hear as well. It’ll help prep you for possible bad reviews later. Also, all those different opinions may help you to see something someone else may have missed or didn’t think much of.
3) Practice selling yourself. No. No. I’m not talking about standing on the corner hawking a $25 dollar…well, you know, but selling your work. Convincing people your book is interesting and that they should want to buy it. As someone who gets tongue tied talking about their novels (see the last blog post!) I find this part of belonging to a group is a huge help to me.
4) Public speaking. I know a lot of people have issues with speaking before a group. To read a chapter of your work in a public place where the people of your group, and anyone else standing around, can hear you can be an incredibly daunting task but it can be a great confidence boost and prepare you should you ever have the chance to do a book signing/reading.
5) A look into the competition. If you have writers of the same genre in your group, it can be helpful to see what they’re writing about and their style. Certain markets are flooded with similar types of books. Right now we know the YA market has a large amount of vampire and werewolf books. Perhaps you might think to work on that old manuscript about humans who turn into unicorns instead of the vampire book to have something different out there.
These are just a few of the highlights to having a good writing partner or group to share your work with. No man is an island, folks. Don’t be scared to share your stories. Just remember, if they help you, they will probably want help in return. It’s a good system. Make it work for everyone.