Episode 008 | Who You Need in Your Writing Squad
In an effort to dispel some of the myths about writing, we broke down the stages of writing in last week’s episode. We’re building on that. While you go through these stages, you don’t have to go through them alone. In fact, it’s way better for both your mental health and the quality of your work if you don’t! Following are some of the people you might find helpful in your writing squad. You are unlikely to need all of these people at every stage, but just know that they’re out there. And keep an eye out for the ones who’ve been missing for your life!
1MENTORS/TEACHERS TO HELP YOU LEARN CRAFT – Ideally, you can take a class in person, but also consider signing up for a class online. Some are more interactive than others. University and continuing studies classes will usually be highly interactive, while classes put out by the platforms below are likely to be less interactive. You might also dip your toe in the water by searching on YouTube for videos. Try searching “new writer” or use the hashtag #authortube to find a cache of writers offering their advice for free. Many authors offer classes through Teachable, but sadly this platform isn’t searchable.
Many writing organizations also offer classes. See the show notes for Episode 006 on Genre for a list of organizations.
2EXPERTS TO HELP YOU RESEARCH – Librarians, people with expertise in subject area or setting, etc. Start local, but remember you can cast your net wide.
“21 Resources…” by Ramona Rice
3 WRITING COACH/MENTOR – For a lot of us, finding this person might mean that you have to settle for a “Virtual” coach or mentor, and that’s okay. I eagerly await new podcasts episodes from Ann Kroeker and Gabriela Pereira, and many, many people look forward to season after season of Writing Excuses. I also make sure to catch all of Sarra Cannon’s YouTube Videos and classes. If you decide to hire a writing coach, go slow. As far as I know, there isn’t any accreditation organization for writing coaches. A google search will yield lots of results, but make sure to ask for 1) references and 2) a free assessment/session to give yourself a sense of whether or not this person is a good fit for you.
4CRITIQUE PARTNER/GROUP – These will often be your first readers (sometimes called Alpha Readers). They’ll likely read your work when it’s still in rougher shape. Many people will have their critique partner (or “CP”) read chapters as they write them rather than wait until they’ve finished the complete first draft of the novel. This allows the author to get feedback on manuscript concerns/questions/issues as they arise. They can then choose to adjust the direction of their story based on the alpha readers’ responses.
“The Difference Between Alpha, Beta, and ARC Readers” by Indies Unlimited
“How to Find the Right Critique Partner: The 6-Step Checklist” by K.M. Weiland
“Critiquing Tips — How to Start and Run Your Critique Group” by DeeScribe Writing
How to Start a Writer’s Group (Course) by Thomas Umstattd Jr.
5 ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER AND/OR GROUP (AKA Mastermind Group) – Think of this as a “free” writing coach or stable of coaches who keep tabs on the progress members of the group are making toward their individual goals. My accountability group meets every other week for 2 hours. Each person updates everyone on their progress against their stated goals and answers questions from other members. We nudge each other, help brainstorm about solutions to challenges, and sometimes just serve as a sounding board. We also share information on opportunities, resources, and approaches that we think might be useful to our fellow writers.
“10 Reasons Why Every Author Needs a Mastermind Group” by Mary Demuth
“6 Tips to Run Your Accountability Group” by Evy Havlik
“9 Keys to Creating an Effective Accountability Group” by Lorena Knapp
“Do You Need an Accountability Partner?” by Evelyn Krieger
“How to Be an Effective Writing Accountability Partner” by Textbook & Academic Author’s Association
How to Start a Writer’s Group (Course) by Thomas Umstattd Jr.
6 BETA READERS & SENSITIVITY READERS– Both types of readers are likely to read your work when it’s nearly finished or as close to finished as you can get it. Take your manuscript as far as your self-editing skills can get it before you bring it to them. Please don’t waste these readers’ time by giving them the first draft. And remember to run your revised draft through some editing software (i.e. spellchecks and grammar checks) before you send it their way, too. Beta Readers should be readers who read books similar to yours. That contextual knowledge of similar books (remember “comps?”) will mean they’ll instinctively offer better advice for your type of book. Think of them as volunteer editors and be clear up front about what sorts of things you want them to help you with. Sensitivity Readers can offer insight into experiences outside of your own. This description from the Huffington Post is as good as any you’ll find: “sensitivity readers…check for issues of representation, bias, insensitive language and cultural inaccuracies, and make suggestions to authors.” Both Beta Readers and Sensitivity Readers may be recruited from your social circles or hired professionals.
“The Case for Beta Readers” by Paul Kilpatrick
“15 Places to Find Your Next Beta Reader” by K.M. Weiland
Patrice Williams Marks, Sensitivity Reader
7 AGENT – Getting an agent is a whole other episode (look for it coming soon). Primarily those hoping to be traditionally published (by publishing companies) need to worry about securing an agent, whereas authors hoping to self publish probably don’t need to worry about this one. Finding an agent involves things like pitching and querying, but most of all persistence. For now, let’s keep it simple. An agent is someone who agrees to take you and your book on and represent you to the publishers. They’ll pitch to editors on your behalf, much the way you pitched to them.
“How to Find a Literary Agent for Your Book” by Jane Friedman
8 EDITOR – This will vary widely, depending on the publishing path you choose. If you’re traditionally published, this person won’t show up in your life until your work has been accepted for publication (usually after being submitted through an agent). If you’re planning to publish it yourself (AKA indie publish), then you can choose to hire freelance editors. Depending on the type of editor, you will get feedback on the structure of the story (Developmental Editor), the consistency within the story (Line Editor or Copyeditor), or the nitpicky punctuation and typos check (Proofreader).
9 STREET TEAM/ARC READERS – This is the crowd that will read your finished, polished, spit-shined, ready-for-prime-time book and leave reviews on booksellers’ sites, as well as review sites. They’ll also do things like talk you up within their circles of influence. These people are excited to help you get the word out about your book. You may also want to think about engaging with a PUBLICIST for this purpose, but only to work in tandem with your Street Team, not to replace it.
“Starting a Street Team” by Olivia Pariset
“How to Put Together an Indie Author Street Team” by Claire Bradshaw
* OTHER WRITERS – Hopefully, you have someone from your personal life who believes in you and the work you are doing. They want to see you succeed, they give you pep talks when you’re blue, and they are just generally loving and supportive people. You STILL need writing buddies. Writing buddies are invaluable, especially ones that are at a similar stage in their career, write in similar genres, or simply share a style or approach. (But don’t let that be a limiting factor! Your greatest mentor or cheerleader might write in a completely different genre, for instance.) They can be muses, mentors, cheerleaders, commiserators, partners in crime, and kind-hearted truthtellers. When these people find their way into your life, you will be amazed at the number of doors — externally and internally — that will open thanks to them.
“3 People Every Writer Needs in Their Creative Collective” by Jeff Goins
“The 4 People Every Writer Needs” by Donna Cook
“5 People Every Writer Needs” by Molly Page
“How to Build Your Writing Team” by Jenny Hansen
Look for more episodes exploring the ways to find these people and how best to interact with them. For now, keep on the lookout for your future squad members and treasure the ones you’ve already found!
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