Building Your Writer's Support Network
Writers work by themselves. Even if you have a co-author, when it comes to putting the words on paper, you sit by yourself and write. However, to be successful, to sell your work, and to keep writing month after month, year after year, you need to connect with other people. Each and every one of us hit a point where we need another writer who understands that sometimes writing can be the best profession in the world, the cruelest and often the loneliest. That is why writers need a writer's support network.
Your Writer's Support Network is not just composed of writers
No writer succeeds by themselves. They need other people to inspire them and to keep them enthusiastic about the work they are doing. Sometimes writers need someone to listen to their complaints about those characters that just won't behave according to your great plan for your novel. Other times you need a critical eye to go through a manuscript and point out where the story went sideways and lost all tension.
Who Should You Include in Your Writer's Support Network
Here are the nine types of people I have identified that writers should consider including in their writer's support network (sometimes, one person can fill several of these roles, but no one person can fulfill all of them for you.)
Accountability partners are the productivity push you need in your support network
Accountability partners may be the most important contributor to your success. They are the people that ask you the business questions. They aren't concerned with whether your plot is coming together, they focus on are you going to meet your deadline? They ask annoying questions like are you sure you need to do a seventh edit or are you just afraid to mail your query letter out to the editor? And, all those reasons for taking that workshop sound great, but are you sure you have to go halfway around the world to learn how to write from a male's point of view? Accountability partners are annoying, but boy, do they help us succeed. Have at least one in your writer's support network.
Critique partners keep us honest
Critique partners are the ones that read our polished stories and point out that the reporter couldn't have possibly been given that final evidence that our detective used to entrap the murderer, because the knife was thrown to the bottom of the lake before the reporter knew about the story. They catch our plot holes. They tell us when we mess up our timelines. They point out the gorgeous man in our romances had blue eyes when the girl first meets him and brown eyes when the kiss on the last page. The best critique partners catch our mistakes, and if we are smart we thank them for deflating our egos.
Beta readers provide emotional feedback
Beta Readers are best in our support network. They aren't looking for your missed logic in the plot unless you hit them over the head with your mistakes and if you have a good critique partner, you won't have obvious mistakes. Look for patterns in the feedback you receive from your beta readers. If one reader couldn't get through the story because they were so confused by the plot and the other four beg you for a sequel, don't start rewriting. Not every story is to everyone's taste. And don't get rid of that beta reader that didn't like the story. Keep them around. Their objections represent a valuable checklist for future stories. Often they have the most critical eye and sometimes, they catch what editors will spot, but your other beta readers might miss. However, avoid trying to change everything that your beta readers point out. They are not always right and if you feel they are wrong, stick to your guns. You are the author and this is your work, not theirs.
Fans keep us writing
We all need fans. Fellow writers tend to focus on all those writing craft lessons they have learned over the years. Fans focus on whether they like the characters.If you can captivate their attention for a couple of books, chances are they like your writing and will keep sending you emails about how much they love your stories. Fans tend to like you to write the same types of books, so if you want to go in a different direction, make sure the fans understand that your new series of books is different than the last set. And expect them to complain if they love your series and you decide to end it!
You don't choose the fans to be in your writer's support network, but value them when they choose you!
Every writer's support network needs a mentor to answer our questions
Mentors give us general advice. They are an essential part of any writer's support network. Your mentor should have traveled the writing road ahead of you. Verify that your mentor really has the experience they claim to have. There are a lot of people handing out writing advice who are quick to give advice but are just quoting other people. (Don't have a writing mentor? Check out our earlier blog post, the “Secret to Getting a Writing Mentor.”
Teachers help us improve
Take classes. Always work to improve your writing by studying the craft of writing from people who are published. Learn how to run your writing business from people who have run successful businesses. I know writers who spend lots of money on books others write but do not taking writing classes. Never quit learning. You might pay for your teacher's time, but they provide knowledge that you need to advance in the quality of your writing and in learning to sell your writing.
Super stars don't know us, but they are part of our support network
We learn to aspire to higher goals through role models who have reached superstar status. Sometimes we decide for various reasons, family, emotional or even physical limitations, we don't want or need to reach their level of fame, but, we can always work toward their writing level.
Friends don't judge us
We all need friends, and not just writing friends. Writing friends understand the daily struggles we face as we work to create stories that people want to read not just once, but repeatedly. Still, sometimes the perspective of friends who aren't enamored with our genre can give us that perspective on life we need. Friends who aren't writers get us out of our offices, away from our keyboard and help us keep on perspective on what is important in life. And that knowledge is critical to writing entertaining stories.
- Family members are part of your Writer's Support Network too
Everyone needs to be loved. Writers face rejection more often than most people and need the acceptance family offers. We all have those relatives that embarrass us. The family members that infuriate us. The childhood memories of dirty socks stuffed in our mouths by jealous siblings. Those memories are often the fuel for our character's emotions and the foundation of our stories' conflicts. Family, especially spouses, are great at listening to our complaints, our story ideas, our rants over unfair criticisms and are the first to celebrate our successes. They are usually the most significant part of the writer's support network because they are the one element of our network we are always stuck with til death do us part.
Suggested additional reading on how to build your Writer's Support Network
Every writer I have met that is supporting themselves writing has a Support Network. If you are interested in starting your own Writer's Support Network, check out Jeff Goins's post 116: Why Writers Need to Build a Professional Network to Succeed.