Nearly every writer at some point feels the loneliness and isolation of the writing life ... off in your own little world, working diligently on your novel, sweating over just the right words, then realizing no one else gives a flip about your effort and work ethic. So you start thinking maybe it would be more fun if you could share your writing passion with someone else. Someone who is a writer like you. Someone who understands everything you go through for your craft. Someone who can be your sounding board and offer you all the creative and emotional support you could possibly ever need for your writing pursuits.
This may sound like a great idea, but before you start looking for that perfect writing partner, here are some issues to consider when deciding a working relationship of this sort is right for you...
1. TEST THE WATERS BY JOINING A WRITING GROUP. Before you take the plunge and commit to looking for a writing partner for writing support or joint writing projects, try joining a club or group where authors who write similarly to you meet regularly. This could be a local writers’ group or one online. You may have to shop around a bit before you find the right fit for your writerly needs. Once you become comfortable interacting with other writers and accepting as well as giving thoughtful criticism, you can then decide whether or not you want to become more involved with sharing your writing process with another writer.
2. DECIDE WHAT YOU NEED AND WANT. If you’ve reached the point where you think you want a dedicated writing partner who will work closely with you, the first thing to do is decide why you want to find a writing partner. Are you looking for a writing friend to socialize with in person or online? This will make a difference in choosing the right person. If you want frequent local interaction with a writing partner, then you’ll have to look for someone who lives close to you and is looking for the same thing. Again, joining a writing group is your best bet for finding someone you may be able to work with. You’ll also want to know what you hope to get from your writing partner. Are you looking just for critique feedback or perhaps collaboration on writing projects? Deciding up front will help you define boundaries, which are important in any professional relationship.
3. FIND THE RIGHT PARTNER. It’s nearly impossible to find someone who is the perfect blend of everything you could possibly want in a writing partner. However, to get close, you have to understand what you want out of the relationship and be honest with yourself in regard to what you can offer in a partnership. If you’re strong on grammar but need help plotting, look for someone who’s got strengths that will shore up your weaknesses. Also make sure that your work and that of your partner are compatible. In other words, if you write mysteries and your partner writes romances, make sure each of you is interested in the other genre to the extent you can offer real input, whether it’s critiquing, brainstorming, or actually contributing to a joint writing project. The most important aspect is personality compatibility and a willingness to compromise. Each partner must be willing to give and take. No partnership will be perfectly balanced all the time. But as long as both parties get along and respect the other, the working relationship should be able to withstand the usual ups and downs in any relationship involving people working together.
4. DISCUSS EXPECTATIONS AND MAKE AN AGREEMENT. You and your prospective writing partner are friends and get along great. But will that be true if you disagree on critical issues related to your writing or your partnership? You should both know what to expect when entering into a working relationship. If you can’t agree whose name will appear first on the cover of your next book, that’s a good indication the two of you will not be able to move forward comfortably when it’s time to make other decisions and compromises that will inevitably come up. Inability to meet on common ground may escalate to arguments and end what may have been a longstanding friendship. So, before that happens, be frank and discuss any and all concerns about sharing the responsibilities and benefits of this type of partnership. Figure out who will be responsible for doing what, and how expenses and proceeds will be portioned. Define if there will be a ‘lead’ partner with more decision-making responsibility, or if the partnership will be on an equal basis. It is best to put this kind of thing in writing so that if disagreements or misunderstandings do crop up, they can be resolved amicably by referring to the agreement document.
5. LEAVE YOURSELF AN AGREEABLE OUT. Always make sure you and your partner both understand and agree that a writing partnership is a working business relationship that is not exclusive, nor permanent (unless of course this is a writing partnership between spouses, then a modicum of permanence would apply). If you find you like writing partnerships and have an opportunity to team with someone else long-term or just for one project, honor your current commitments with your existing partner as agreed, rather than dropping that person for greener pastures. If doing this requires you to step away from future commitments to your current partner, be honest and don’t string your partner along simply to avoid hurt feelings. Refer to terms in your written partnership agreement to help resolve such issues.
There are many other details involved, but going to the trouble to hash out these issues ahead of time will save you a lot of trouble and difficulty later. Once you look at writing with someone else as a business relationship rather than a social one, you can approach the situation with a clear head and heart, and treat your writing partner just as you would want to be treated – hopefully with many years of happy writing ahead for the two of you.
Pat Morrison, Penumbra Publishing