Why have a writing partner?

A writing partner can be a great asset to your creativity, provided that you put in the groundwork and know what to expect of each other. 

I’ve been working with my writing partner for the last three years. It’s been a great relationship involving me reading two of his books and him working through my novel. 

Having a writing partner has given me clarity on so many aspects of my work in progress. I have someone to brainstorm with, and to work out the kinks with. Someone who notices when vital information hasn’t made its way onto the page. My writing partner also provides excellent moral support when I feel like my book is a lost cause or struggle with imposter’s syndrome. 

I offer him the same kind of support, helping him iron out his book series and tidy up his writing along the way. 

Now we are both in different stages of the writing process, but that doesn’t matter in our case. What does matter is that we dedicate time to each other and meet up every Monday to offer help, advice and feedback. 

Terms and conditions

Before meeting regularly, we had a call to nail down our terms and conditions. This included how often we would meet up and how much we expected the other to read. Along with what kind of advice we were looking for, and what would happen if we decided that it wasn’t working. 

Well, that was three years ago, so it worked out pretty well. 

What to expect

When looking for a writing partner, it would be good to figure out what you want from them before you meet up. Make a small list of what you hope to accomplish and be ready to compromise to make the professional relationship work.

Ideally, you should both write in similar genres, and at the very least, you should enjoy reading each other’s genres.

You should look for someone similar to you in terms of writing speed and editing speed. Otherwise, one of you might feel as though they do all the heavy lifting. 

In the case of working at a slower pace, I would recommend meeting less frequently. My writing partner and I write quite a lot during the week, so weekly meetings work for us. You might need to consider a different schedule based on not only writing pace but also personal lives. 

When you do get a writing partner, you need to know that they will be critiquing your work. This can be quite difficult for writers to handle emotionally, especially if this is your first encounter with feedback, so let’s talk about etiquette. 

How to take criticism 

My writing partner and I scroll through each other’s books, making edits along the way. During the meeting, we discuss what needs changed and make minor adjustments on the spot or take notes for more significant changes to be handled later. This is not the time to rewrite huge chunks of your manuscript, though if you need help with fleshing something out, you can always ask for assistance. Just remember that the time you meet together is for both of you, so be prepared to give as much as you receive. 

During the criticism process, you are allowed to defend your work if you feel it is necessary. You are also allowed to reject changes to your manuscript. What you cannot do is take criticism personally. 

My writing partner and I have been working together for years, so we rarely hurt each other’s feelings anymore.

Please know that your partner should never be attacking the quality of your writing or you. If they are doing that, it is a breach of contract. They should simply be offering advice to improve a piece of work. They should never be actively trying to hurt your feelings. 

How to give criticism 

When it comes to giving criticism, much is the same as above. You should never attack your writing partner. I feel like that should be obvious, but I’ve heard some heartbreaking horror stories, so please, refrain from personal attacks. 

You should discuss the criticism method with your writing partner. We go through our books, explaining our edits as we go. We don’t talk much outside of explaining our edits though there is some chatting before and after the meeting.

You both might need a more conversational approach as opposed to our productivity prioritising one. 

If you don’t want to offer line by line edits a writing forum that I am a part of suggests offering three good things about a manuscript and three negative things. This will give overall feedback that can be implemented while taking up less time each week.

Something needs to be said about style. Please don’t edit a book based on how you would write it. You are not the author of this book. You are editing it. Try to keep the style of the original writer when suggesting your edits. A way to make sure that you are doing is this is by only making suggestions when they genuinely help the flow, pace, or overall product.

You shouldn’t be trying to change someone else’s work into your own style. You should be helping that writer improve their voice and enhance their own personal style!

Now go forth and find the writing partner of your dreams.

As always, I cannot wait to see you on the bookshelf!