The first time I tried to write a full-out novel was in high school. One night my best friend was sleeping over and all of a sudden we had this amazing idea. We started bouncing plot lines off each other and names and characters and backstory.
Before you knew it, we were starting the book.
We planned out research and had a floppy-disk (oh, yeah, way back when) and binder dedicated to all the amazing things we did and found. It was amazing.
And that’s how our friendship died. Ok, not really, but pretty close.
You see, writing a book is so personal that as we grew and wrote together, we drifted apart. We were less and less friends/writing buddies and more and more business partners. Over time, we became too invested, feelings were hurt, and constructive criticism and ideas turned into personal jabs.
The point is, it is important to find a writing buddy and critique partner, but you have to have a person that is either close enough that you can encourage and push, but you respect enough so you can withstand criticism and suggestions.
How do you find this mysterious balance?
1. Test drive.
Not everyone is great for a writing buddy or critique partner. Some aren’t meant to be both. If you try to be someone’s CP and they can’t stand the way you do things, or vice versa, then you tried! Shake hands, and move on. You don’t want to feel obligated to stick with someone, which is why it’s important to be solely professional or have a friendship that can withstand the heat.
2. Balance is key.
You want to find someone that you can work with. Sometimes it takes give and take, and it ALWAYS takes feedback. Let each other know when and how you work best. Find someone you know will push you to write with encouragement and loving force, but not hold it against you if you’re in a slump and truly just can’t if that’s what you need. We all work differently. But everyone needs the balance of love and encouragement with honesty and drive. If you have a CP or writing partner who never pushes or encourages you to keep going, then you’re probably in the market for a new one.
3. Keep the competition at bay.
While you want someone who knows your subject and enjoys it, you may not want someone who’s writing in your identical field. Why, you ask? Because it brings out the competitive nature of writing. You can be 100% supportive and still be bitter if someone gets a deal before you. It helps to soothe this green-eyed feeling with, “Well, we write different things. It will be my turn soon.”
4. Just keep swimming.
Even if you haven’t found that special person to encourage you or exchange manuscripts with, it doesn’t mean you should stop writing.
Keep going. Keep dreaming. Keep writing.
Eventually, you’re going to see that book in print. And if you do find that special someone to be part of your writing life, you’ll be just as proud when you see their book in print as well.
If you’re the type of person who would like a CP or a writing buddy but does not want to introduce your book to friends or family members, there are a lot of groups online where you can meet someone. Twitter is a really great place to start. Start following some authors, build a community around you, and then put yourself out there and start asking. Finding a good CP is kind of like finding a good dating partner—it might take a couple of bad dates to weed out the bad ones, but you’re never going to go on a date if you don’t have the courage to ask.