There’s a good reason authors write acknowledgement and thank you pages-it’s because writing and publishing can be difficult, lonely, frustrating and overwhelming. The people in our lives help keep us motivated and positive, and also help us gain perspective on our writing and work to improve it. Here are three types of people you definitely want to be part of your team.
Ask yourself this: Which of your friends reads the most? Who is never without a book or an ereader? Whose recommendations go straight to the top of your “to read” list? That’s a person you want in your corner.
A Bibliophile is a great resource even if they never read your book. People who read a lot know what works and what doesn’t. They’re sensitive to great writing, and able to zero in on problems. They’ve immersed themselves in the amazing world of literature to the point that just having a discussion with them will give you new insights and understanding. They’re also great for recommendations. I firmly believe in the oft-quoted advice that to be a good writer you have to be a good reader, and your Bibliophile can point you towards what’s good. Sometimes, they can even steer you directly to the right model. When I told mine about something I was struggling with, she could often say something like, “Read this book, and really pay attention to the beginning of chapter three.” So many things clicked for me as I was doing this kind of targeted reading (so much so that I’ll be posting about some specific examples soon).
Of course, if your Bibliophile is willing to read your work, so much the better. He or she is guaranteed to have specific, analytical feedback that help you develop and improve your manuscript. Bonus points if they’re an English teacher.
The Straight Talker
Years ago, a friend sat me down to have a serious talk about some life decisions I was making. She started the conversation by saying, “I care enough about you to risk you being furious with me”. She was one of the first people I asked to read the first draft of my book.
It’s critical to have people who offer encouragement and positivity. However, if you want your work to improve, and be the best it can be before you publish or start submitting, you need to find and address problems and weaknesses. Jeff Goins wrote a post a few years ago on the benefits of reading negative reviews (you can find it here).
Goins said, “I don’t know about you, but I’m interested in mastery, and you don’t master a craft by avoiding criticism. You don’t get good without asking the question, ‘Is this any good?’ And occasionally, as hard as it is, we need to listen to the voices that say ‘no.’”
I’m on board with that, but I’m advocating starting early (and maybe learning those lessons in time to avoid a few of those negative reviews). Find the Straight Talker in your life, and be open to really listening to what he or she has to say. In my first draft of Weird Theology, I had a character with a particular verbal style that I liked, but my Straight Talker hated. When she explained her rationale, I ended up agreeing. On the other hand, there was a scene in the book that she didn’t like at all, but in the end I kept it. Remember, it’s up to you what you do with the feedback you’re getting, but I can’t overemphasize how important it is to get it.
The Kindred Spirit
There’s nothing quite like talking to someone who’s been there-or is there-and can really understand what’s going on in your world. You want to be friends with another author. I’ve found it especially helpful to connect with people who are in similar situations in terms of genre, career, and so on.
I got to know Casey White while we were both writing our series, and we published our first book around the same time. We were able to support each other, share thoughts and information, and generally make the process a little less lonely. Leo Petracci is further along in his career, and has been super helpful as he generously shared the benefit of his experience.
Unlike the other two important friends, you might not be able to find a Kindred Spirit in your existing social circle. However, it’s really easy to meet and form friendships with writers online. If you’re looking for a new local friend, there are tons of writers’ groups around. Just Google “writer’s groups” plus your city’s name, and you’re almost guaranteed to find a starting point.
How do you support your friends, or how do they support you? Tell me about it in the comments.