Thank you to Writers Write for guest posting this blog.
You can increase your writing productivity by partnering with another writer and critiquing each other's work. But not any good-natured writer will do. If you really want to improve your writing productivity, look for these seven things in your next critique partner:
- Someone who writes for a different age group. Up until recently, my novels have been aimed at adults. My writing partner, on the other hand, writes for young children and middle grade.
This is very helpful when it comes to the younger characters in my novels and even the protagonists. She can spot something off immediately: a ten-year-old wouldn't think like that, a teenager wouldn't answer like that, that sounds more like an adult imagining what a kid would say.
On the flipside, I help her up the age as she struggles to break into adult writing. I'm constantly reminding her that it sounds "too young" or the logic is not adult enough.
Because we focus on different age categories, we can really help each other spot weaknesses. Adult writers have younger characters in their novels and middle grade writers have a few adults in their novels, too.
- Someone with a similar pace of life. If you work three different part-time jobs and have three children under the age of five, it's not the best idea to partner with someone who works one part-time job and has one grown- up child.
The result is likely to be endless frustration when you have to cancel for fevers, doctors appointments, school meetings, and missed work deadlines. You don't have to have twin lives. I have five children while my critique partner has two. But your lives have to match each other for pace or you might end up with more hurt feelings and disappointments than productive writing sessions. Guilt and disappointment that creates tension between you, will decrease your productivity.
- Someone in a similar writing career stage with different strengths. If your partner is writing as a vehicle for socializing or therapy that's the wrong match for someone who wants to be a published, career writer.
For example, you both need to be critiquing for publication if you both want to be published writers. That's high productivity.
Your partner should have different writing strengths. For example, one of you will be stronger in location and structure and the other in dialogue and pace. Now that's really high productivity.
- Avoid mentor relationships. You need someone who admires your writing and your critique skills and the feeling must be mutual. Otherwise, you'll be in danger of a teacher-student or mentor relationship. There's nothing wrong with those relationships, but they won't increase your productivity, especially if you're in the mentor/teacher role.
- Someone on the same meet-up wavelength. If you're like me, you like to mix and match your writing meet-ups. Sometimes you're down for a virtual meeting and sometimes you want a face-to-face meet-up.
If you partner with someone who only ever wants to meet in person, you may lose a whole season before you get to that cafe. On the flipside, if you dislike virtual exchanges, you might feel cheated if that's what your partner prefers.
- Avoid long-term commitments. If you've gone through one project with your partner, you are not automatically committed to their next one. It won't increase your productivity if you have nothing to exchange, if you're busy marketing your own novel or taking a writing break to be committed to more critique.
Your productivity will be highest with a partner if you're at more or less the same place in your novels (both of you are outlining/in first or final draft).
- Don't over-rely on your partner. It won't increase your productivity to consider your partner your only source of novel feedback. Be realistic. Novels are complex. Nobody is strong in everything and if you want to move along, you will need advice from more than once source. Consider an editor or another colleague.
In addition to increased productivity, a writing exchange partner is an excellent cure for the loneliness many writers feel. Another big plus is it can save you a lot of time and money. To get the most out of it, choose your partner wisely.