Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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November 8, 2017

How Writing Partners Help - and Where to Find Them

Julie Cantrell

The Summit Girls: F (L-R) Christa Allan, Jenny B. Jones, Lisa Wingate B (L-R) Carla Stewart, Judy Christie, Julie Cantrell

Imagine six female novelists. One quiet mountain retreat. Three days of intense power-packed creative sessions (plus a hefty stash of chocolate). That’s how our writing tribe was formed. Today, we’re a supportive sisterhood now calling ourselves the Summit Girls.

Who Are the Summit Girls

The Summit Girls are comprised of six female novelists from the U. S. who gathered together this spring to brainstorm plots, critique writing samples, and offer encouragement. With more than 80 books published between us, as well as a few scripts, screenplays, and a long string of articles, our diverse backgrounds provide unique perspectives as we help to shape one another’s stories.

Although we had been friends for years (some longer than others), we had never carved time for a retreat until this year. Setting aside one long weekend proved to be a pivotal decision for all of us. Not only have our friendships deepened, but we now rely on one another to foster more successful careers as novelists.

Five Ways Writing Partners Can Improve Each Other’s Work

  1. Sprint: The Summit Girls frequently send a group text message something like: “Anyone want to sprint at 10?” Those who accept will devote one-hour to uninterrupted writing time. At 11, for example, we check back in and share screenshots of word counts, trying to meet at least 1,000 words per hour. Creating these accountability check-ins has proven to be an effective strategy, helping us to reduce distractions and focus on writing.
  2. Cheer: We celebrate our victories as a group. The Summit Girls are always eager to share shout-outs on social media and spread the good news about our writer pals. This reminds us all that we are not alone in this journey and helps build our readership across platforms.
  3. Model: With different levels of experience, we each bring something different to the table. We appreciate those various skills and enjoy teaching one another. We don’t believe in re-creating the wheel, and the more we can reduce stress for a fellow Summit Girl, the better.
  4. Critique: There is no more important tool for a writer than a trusted critique partner. The Summit Girls read one another’s work, offer constructive criticism, and help polish stories until they shine.
  5. Encourage: Whether through brainstorming, offering plot support, assisting with character development, or sharing media connections for press coverage, the Summit Girls want nothing more than to see all six of us sustain long, healthy, happy careers as full-time novelists. When one of us in the slumps, we rally the troops and lift spirits until we’re all at our best again. While writers may be able to hire coaches, editors, and PR firms to handle the other four points, there is nothing more important in life than sincere moral support and friendship.

How to Find a Writing Partner

Writing can be an isolative career, but by finding at least one trusted partner, novelists can help fuel one another’s creative spirits, offer moral and professional support, and push one another to be the most effective and efficient writers we can be.

To find a partner, try attending a writing conference where like-minded souls are in search of feedback and peer support. Also join social media chats about publishing, especially those within your specific genre (romance, sci-fi, women’s fiction, etc.)

In addition to joining online forums, it’s a good idea to connect with writing groups in your local community. If no writing groups are currently active in your community, consider launching one. You might be surprised how grateful and helpful other writers are once you dare to gather together.

Do you have any other tips for us? Do you have writing partners? How have they helped?

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Julie Cantrell is an award-winning New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling novelist and TEDx presenter whose fourth novel, Perennials, hit shelves Nov. 14, 2017. She is honored to be a Summit Girl with novelist friends Christa Allan, Judy Christie, Jenny B. Jones, Carla Stewart, and Lisa Wingate. Learn more about Julie’s work: www.juliecantrell.com

25 comments on “How Writing Partners Help - and Where to Find Them”

  1. Julie, I agree, a retreat with a few trusted writers can fuel you for a long time. I have a group, The L&L's: Darynda Jones, Susan Donovan, Lori Freeland and I. Last year was our first retreat in the mountains of New Mexico, and it was heaven. Writer rocket fuel!!!!

    Can't wait for next year. I suggest EVERYONE do this if it's at all feasible!

    1. Seriously, Laura. We had talked about it for years but had never really DONE it. We were all so grateful we made time for the retreat, and now we're promising to make it an annual event. Already planning our 2018 Summit. We don't spend a lot of money at all on this retreat. In fact, next time it will be at one of SG homes... no rental fee. We all work on a budget and it can be done. Glad you have a scribe tribe. It helps!!!
      (And thanks for inviting me to your lovely blog today. Honored.)

  2. I love this! I have a single critique partner whom I take writing retreats, and those weekends are some of my most productive times. But I also know the benefit of working with a group and getting encouragement and feedback from multiple friends. Great idea!

      1. Seriously, the group mindset really does help keep us all positive. LIke a family unit, we lift one another when we start to get in the slumps. And man, those sprints really do hold us accountable. Now I need an accountability partner to make me go for an actual run every day too! (sigh)

  3. I love the idea of a retreat. I have a great critique group, honest, funny and talented. We count on each other to make our writing the best it can be and to support us when the writing won't happen. I am eternally grateful to their wisdom and their loyalty.

  4. heartily agree. I would mention that WFWA has a great vehicle for finding critique partners - links can be found on the web-site. That's how I found my first two writing friends (Patricia and Barbara, I'm pointing at you!) and we were then able to meet in person a year later at Albuquerque as old and trusted friends.

    1. Maggie, what a great resource. I have to admit... I've had WFWA on my "to do" list for a year now... and I haven't had a chance to join and get invovled. I'm aching to do so. I hear so many good things about that group, and I know I'd love to meet more female authors. We have to keep lifting one another! Maybe this is the nudge I've been needing.

  5. I think most women are better at this than most men. I've shared writing with a number of writers, but the relationships seem to peter out over time. Perhaps getting together in person is what's needed to cement the connection!

    1. Another Take, I have heard this from several male writers who have since found support in local writer's critique groups. Also, some of my male author friends go "for drinks" once a week at the local pub. They don't call it a writing group, but they are bonding and offering support for one another within their comfort zone. I know they rely on one another as much as my female friends do. They just don't always admit it 🙂 I hope you find your people and keep writing. Thanks for joining the chat.

  6. I attended a retreat with writer friends in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. We had a wonderful time and I was able to finish my WIP which snagged me an agent, a Golden Heart and a publishing contract.

    So yes, I am in favor of retreats and will forever be grateful for that one!

    1. I hear you, Jenny. If you're like me, you run non-stop and tend to put less urgent things on the back burner until someone holds us to the flame. That's why the sprint challenges really work for me.

  7. You are absolutely right about small writing groups. My Writing Sisters and I met five years ago at a week-long writing retreat. We get together once a year, stay at a B&B, and spend the weekend catching up and helping each other with our latest projects. They are treasures!

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