Author: Helen Cox

Helen Cox is a UK author. She made her on-screen debut in The Krankies in 1990. Given the choice, her Mastermind topic would be Grease 2 and when someone asks her if she is a god she says 'yes.' Oh, you want to know about her books? Best click some of the links below.

Writing Partners: the when, the how and the why

Author note: when searching for an accompanying image it seemed logical to reflect the setting of my first novel: New York, 1990. This is how I imagine my writing partner, Dean Cummings and I might’ve looked had we gone to high school together in the 90s. Rad.

Whenever I talk about my ‘writing partner’, the most common question I’m asked is: ‘what does a writing partner do?’ As most people I meet down the pub aren’t in the market for a gushing monologue about how somebody living more than 4000 earth miles away has changed my life and my approach to writing, I usually offer the most straightforward description I can of our dealings.

Each week, we exchange a chapter of our work in progress. We then read it and type up feedback on what we particularly enjoyed about it, alongside some suggestions for strengthening that chapter even further.

That’s the closest I can get to an Inigo Montoya-esque summing up of the situation.

I often suggest to other writers I know that they might benefit from a writing partner,
but not everyone is sure when or how to go about it. Or why it might be so important.

Based on the experiences I’ve had with my writing partner Dean, here’s my take the subject.

When is the best time to connect with a writing partner?

There are no hard and fast rules but ideally when you’ve written, or nearly-written, a first draft. That way, you have writing in the bank to send to your partner each week. Checking over your last chapter and making some edits and enhancements is a lot quicker than writing it from scratch. If you have to do that, you may give up on the process because you don’t have the time to commit to it.

In my opinion, having a writing partner is one of the most rewarding experiences out there but like most rewarding experiences it will require an investment of your time. Having a first draft under your belt before seeking editorial guidance from someone else is therefore quite handy.

How do I find a writing partner?

There are more avenues to explore than you might think. GoodReads has a number of genre-specific groups that have separate sub-folders for those looking to buddy up with another writer. If that isn’t already an option in the group, ask the administrator. They are usually both visible and friendly, it stands to reason that somebody running a group is keen to connect people.

You could also visit one of the online forums specially designed to help writers find other writers looking to partner up.

If those fail, there’s also Twitter. Ask people to retweet your call out for a writing partner. I did this when I was looking for Beta Readers (more information on that journey in a blog post next month) and it worked a treat.

Why should I get a writing partner?

I’m not big on telling other people what they should do, or why they should do it, I can only tell you what having a writing partner has meant for me.

From a professional perspective, I like to think that I’d have landed a publishing deal at some point, like many other writers, but the truth is I wouldn’t have been picked up so quickly (ten months from first draft to book deal is pretty fast by anyone’s standards) if I hadn’t had Dean to guide me through my rewrites. Or to offer encouragement in a week where I might have received anywhere between one and six rejection emails.

Showing an early draft to someone you barely know is a daunting thought. Nobody likes the idea of putting all their flaws out on exhibition, but it’s a leap of faith worth making.

Though we started out communicating solely on the subject of writing, writing is a pretty personal pursuit that demands deep and meaningful discourse. Consequently,
over the months since I first emailed Dean last September, we have developed a rich friendship, and I am so grateful for that friendship. He has kept me sane, or about as sane as I’m ever going to be, throughout this very unsettling, topsy turvy experience.

There’s a bit of a stereotype out there about writers being quite lonely creatures but meeting Dean has shown me it doesn’t have to be that way. Having someone to keep you grounded and to understand the frustrations involved in creating engaging but meaningful stories is nothing short of priceless.

Thanks to the unwavering support of my writing partner over in Canada, my first novel, Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner is being published by the Avon Books imprint at HarperCollins on 4th July 2016.


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