Thursday, December 11, 2008

Writing Buddies – Where, What, and How

One intrepid blog reader wrote to ask for some follow up on our recent post regarding Writing Buddies. How, this Shrinking Violet asked, does an introvert find one? And what does one look for in a writing buddy?

We thought these were such great questions that they deserved their own blog entry.

Where:

My first suggestions would be to check out local/regional chapters of some of the national writing organizations such as Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, etc. The thing is, even if you don’t write in one of these particular genres, you can still learn an awful lot through their organizations; plotting, craft, characterization, and information about how to approach editors and agents and publishers.

Here is a link to the regional chapters of SCBWI. They don’t have regular monthly meetings, but they do have schmoozes and critiquenics and day long workshops where you will undoubtedly meet other writers, many of whom will be introverts.

RWA also has a number of local chapters, most of which have regular monthly meetings. You do have to belong to the national chapter first, which requires annual dues.

Here’s a link to MWA’s regional chapters, many of whose meetings are open to non-members, so you can try them out before committing.

Just as a note as to how valuable cross pollinating with different genres can be, I didn’t sell my first children’s book mss until after I’d belonged to both SCBWI and RWA for a number of years.

Another great meeting place can be your local adult education classes or community college classes. In fact, that’s where Mary and I met.

Or use larger conferences or day long workshops as a chance to try and meet people who might be interested in forming a critique group.

If none of those avenues bear fruit, check with your local bookstores, librarians, and community centers to see if they know of any writers’ groups that meet locally.

Of course, there is always the internet. I know a number of popular authors have yahoo groups or forums and it turns out some of their biggest fans are aspiring writers, so that can be a good point of commonality from which to start your search.

There are also tons of yahoo writing groups, the Verla Kay boards, etc. In fact, the sheer number of them are overwhelming so maybe some blog readers can help out by recommending some of their favorite online writing groups and communities?

How:

Okay, this is probably the hardest part. You’re at a workshop or conference or even sitting in a classroom with all these other people. How in gawd’s name do you make the first move? The truth is, you’ll most likely have to create a stretch goal for yourself to meet new people.

The thing is, like a best friend, you won’t necessarily know your writing buddy at first sight. The idea is to meet enough other writers so that you have a chance to form a deeper writing relationship with someone who you find you have a lot in common or develop a mutual affinity for.

Basically (to coin a phrase) you might have to sniff a lot of flowers before you find your one true Violet.

  • Look around for people who seem friendly or open, who make eye contact with you, who smile.
  • Also keep an eye out for other introverts; they may be thrilled to have someone make the first move.
  • It might be smart to join an existing writer’s group for a short while to get a feel for the members and how they treat their writing and critiquing.
  • If there isn’t an existing writer’s group in your area, consider starting one, but maybe on a short term, temporary basis just to see how it works so you’re not committed to something that ends up not working for you.
  • With internet groups, after lurking then participating in the community for a while, you will start to get an idea of which posters you seem to have a lot in common with. When an opportunity presents itself, you can begin a conversation “off list” and see where it goes.

What:

Lastly, what qualities does one look for in a writing buddy?

The truth is, writing buddies are an awful lot like friends; only it is a friendship that revolves around writing. In some ways, you will be more vulnerable in this relationship because you’ll be sharing your writing and goals and dreams and opening yourself to feedback, so many of the same guidelines for starting a new friendship will apply to beginning a writing buddyship.

You’ll want someone who:
  • Gets you and your writing. Understands your thematic core and creative vision for your work.
  • Who enjoys your writing as a reader.
  • Who is able to engage in a healthy give and take, always kind and sensitive but who will say the hard things (gently!) that you need to hear.
  • Someone who, over time, becomes as invested in your writing career as you are.
  • You do not need someone who writes in the exact same genre as you do, as long as you enjoy each others work.
Mary, do you have some thoughts you’d like to add?

And anyone else who has thoughts on where or how to find a writing buddy or what to look for, please feel free to add them in the comment section!!

9 comments:

Corey Schwartz said...

Hi Robin and Mary. First off, I just want to say that I LOVE your blog! I have several writing buddies. Most have come from online or offline critique groups. Whenever you are in a group critiquing situation there will always be one or two people whose writing and whose comments particularly resonate with you. I have one buddy who I have never met or spoken to, but who I have been working with through email and AIM for years. We have even collaborated on a few picture books together.

caryl said...

Interesting that you wrote on this topic. While aquainting myself with your blog, I came across the orginal blog entry on writing buddies and had the saem question: How do you find one?

It's a slightly scary prospect, but I see the value in having one. One of my most tireless supporters is my old college roommate. While she has a degree in English, she's not a writer. Not sure if she would fit the bill. She gives honest criticism, but she wouldn't be able to relate to the frustrations writers face.

I'll have to give this a think. Thanks for addressing the subject again.

(btw, if you click on my name, please don't judge me by the blog it takes you to. I posted a phone call I had with Taylor Hicks and have been invaded by his fans. Lately I've been giving them what they want. TH news. I'm working on a new blog that won't embarrass me. Well, that's the plan, anyway.)

beckylevine said...

Robin, great post! The only organization I'd add, if you're in California, is the California Writer's Club. They have branches all over the state and put on workshops and conferences all year long.

I couldn't live without my writing buddies. None of them are allowed to ever consider moving away or ceasing to write!

Mary Hershey said...

Thanks, Corey, Caryl, and Becky for all you've shared! You, too, Robin-- this a super post. Lots of great info here and excellent ideas. Can't think of anything to add!

Except to perhaps emphasize that in your quest to find a great buddy, don't forget to be one as well. I think that is probably one of the most powerful things we can do in life to invite what we want-- by simply being it... you will likely then attract it others.

:-)
Mary Hershey

Saintcross said...

Hi, I just stumbled across your blog, and I'm so glad I did. I set up an account here just so I could come here and read your blog. It is a lifesaver! Thank you.

Robin LaFevers said...

Most have come from online or offline critique groups. Whenever you are in a group critiquing situation there will always be one or two people whose writing and whose comments particularly resonate with you.
Yes, Corey! I very much agree with this. Those are the people to look for. And I'm so glad you're enjoying the blog!

Becky, I hadn't heard about the California Writer's Club. Thanks for mentioning it!

LOL, Caryl. We promise not to judge you buy your TH fans. :-)

And welcome, Saintcross! We're so glad you found us!

Maggie Stiefvater said...

After looking in vain for crit partners in the usual places and ending up with folks I just didn't quite click with, I put a call out on my LJ blog: critique dating. I would exchange my first 50 pages with anyone and we would critique them and return the pages. Then, for any reason, we could walk away, no questions asked. I went through about 5 that weren't quite right before landing on the two best critique partners I could ask for. I've now had them for most of a year and can't imagine trying to hit a contract deadline without them.

Robin LaFevers said...

Maggie, what a terrific suggestion! I'm sure there are SVP readers just like yourself who have tried all the usual places and come up empty. I know they'll love hearing about your idea! Thanks!

Kait Nolan said...

I might also suggest that folks check out Crit Partner Match (http://critpartnermatch.ning.com). It's designed to help match folks up with people in their own genre looking for a crit partner.