Monday, November 21, 2011

6 Steps to Building a Strong Team for your Writing Career

Turning a good story into a great one requires team work. That's right: team work. As writers we need the help of critique partners, beta readers and editors. For those of us who want to go the traditional publishing route, we also need agents and publishers.

As the authors of our work, we are the leaders of our team. We are the ones who have to make the final decisions on where we want our stories to go. For this reason we need a strong team around us to help us make the right decisions.

Steps for building a cohesive team:
1. Don't be a loner. While the process of writing is a solitary one, this doesn't mean we should isolate ourselves. It's better for our writing (and our mental health) to join writing communities, to seek encouragement and support from like-minded people. This will help us find the best matches when seeking critique partners and editors.

2. Do your research. If you pick for your team the first person who shows an interest in your work, without doing the research to find out whether or not you'd work well together, then you may not find the best match. It's worth spending the time to find the people who have a similar vision for your work.

3. Nurture the relationships. Every relationship benefits from open communication and nurturing. The better you know your teammates, the more able you'll be to understand where their suggestions are coming from.

4. Trust your team. You've done your research, found a good team and got to know them well. Now it's time to trust them. This team of people want excellence for your stories. Trust they will offer their best opinions and experience to improve those stories.

5. Trust yourself. While trusting your teams is important, it's just as important to trust yourself. Sometimes you may get so many editorial changes that you'll be in danger of losing your voice to the tune of another. Sometimes you may need to make a stand.

6. Be professional at all times. No one likes a foot-stamper and pouting went out years ago with Mae West. If you don't agree with certain changes, then come up with valid reasons why you think those changes shouldn't be implemented. Understand that professionalism includes flexibility so you'll also need to learn to pick your battles.

Can you think of other steps towards building a strong team around you? Which steps do you find the hardest and which are the easiest?

48 comments:

  1. Writing can be an extremely isolating commitment. It's why I love blogging, It's my way of talking to people who are doing exactly the same and we share the journeys each and everyone of us is on. It is important to have the right people around you as well.

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  2. I think all of these are great! Two that really speak to me are "Do Your Research" and "Be Professional at All Times." Not every writer is a good fit for your work and not every writer knows how to act professional. Great pointers!

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  3. Great steps! There are so many resources around us in terms of books and blog posts about craft, but it's so important to have a few trusted writers in your circle, too. Critique has been so important and crucial to my improvement~ I can't imagine making progress alone.

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  4. I'm a loner at heart so I guess for me it'll be trusting myself to trust others to do their bit to make my story shine!

    Great post - very true! Take care
    x

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  5. number five is especially important! I've heard a lot of bad advice given to writers by editor, publishers and most often by fellow bloggers and readers, and I often wished for them to just make a stand against them :)

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  6. Another tip I thought of: be loyal. Even when one if ur team does really well for themselves.

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  7. My critique partners are amazing and I definitely went on gut instinct when selecting them.

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  8. My online friends keep me company!

    Great list!

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  9. Not everyone would agree, but in my experience, I found that critique partners need to be writing in the same genre (or subject matter) as me. A team of writers is great for general support, sharing, inspiration, info etc. I really like no. 5. I was in danger of losing my voice because of someone else's values and opinions. I had to make a stand! As a new writer it's not all smooth-going. Anyway, this is a great post, as always!

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  10. My last revision just came back from my editor this week and I wanted to stomp my foot and throw a tantrum. Glad I didn't, as her suggestions were all correct and my work is better for following them.

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  11. I think no. 6 is absolutely vital. One can never regret handling themselves with poise.

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  12. Definitely agree with learning to trust yourself. Feedback comes in all sizes and shapes and it takes a fair amount of confidence in your story to know which to believe and which to ignore.

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  13. Very true post, and great comments afterward. It's nice to write in private, but when that's done--sharing is crucial! It keeps us sane and hones our work. :)

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  14. Great post! These steps are key to a writer's career.

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  15. This is a great list. The only thing I'd add is to celebrate each other's wins, no matter how big or small. Writing is definitely solitary, and at times very lonely, and I know I wouldn't have gotten through some tough times without the support of my writing buds.

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  16. Great advice, Lynda. I have a wonderful team in my critique group and co-authors when we're working together and when we're working on our own novels, and now I'm finding more support as I make wonderful friends in the blogosphere and on Twitter.

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  17. Excellent list :) I think that trusting yourself would be the hardest part. Once you put such an investment in other people, I'd feel that their opinions took precedence over my own. That's a train of thought I'd need to break :P

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  18. Good ideas, especially doing your research. Finding a good match can be hard.

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  19. This is a great list. The hardest thing for me will be actually handing over my work :-)

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  20. Great list. I think it's easier to be connected with the Internet. It's also easier to be distracted.

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  21. Rebecca, yes, blogging is a wonderful way of connecting with people.

    Mary, research is so important. It's too easy to get over excited when someone shows an interest.

    Jess, yes, a writer without some sort of critique partnership is missing out.

    Old Kitty, yes, it's not always easy.

    Dezzy, yes, I totally agree. I can think of a number of scripts in particular that didn't shine because the writers didn't stick to their original vision.

    Jess, interesting. That's not something I've thought of or experienced, but you are right. Loyalty is so important.

    Alex, sounds like you found great ones.

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  22. Nas, thanks

    Joanne, I don't think it's smooth-going for even established writers.

    Karen, I think we all have to have that stomping moment...and then get over it ;) Awesome to hear your work is better for it.

    Suze, totally agree.

    Luanne, yes, I think confidence is key.

    Carol, ah sanity, that elusive state of being ;)

    Jennifer, oh yes!! That's a great addition. I totally agree.

    Lynn, it's wonderful isn't it.

    Jamie, yes, there is that tendency and yes you do need to have faith in the vision for your work.

    Sarah, the first few times I handed over my work it was agony. Now I'm used to it ;)

    Stacy, ha, yes, distractions... sigh ;)

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  23. Another awesome post, Lynda! And I couldn't agree more. I think the hardest part for me is building the team, finding those who read and write in my genre. I wish there were more women who wrote adult psychological thrillers, but I can learn a lot from all writers. And I do!! Thanks again, Lynda!!

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  24. Excellent advice. It's finding the team that's been hard for me.

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  25. #1 was the hardest step for me. I'm a loner by nature, so it took some time for me to warm up to the community. Of course, I ended up loving it. *grins* Funny how those things work out!

    Great post!

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  26. Excellent post! You are so right. On every. single. one.

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  27. Nancy, yep, I imagine it is difficult finding others in that genre.

    Bish, it's a slow process some times.

    Carrie, hehe, yep, I'm the same. I wish I'd discovered the community sooner :)

    Peggy, thanks

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  28. I like Trust Your Team. These are excellent tips. Very few people can get published without having other eyes on their manuscripts first. We need perspective. But we need to stay true to ourselves and our story too. It's a balance.

    I'd add, there's no way around grammar. If you're making a lot of mistakes, brush up.

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  29. I think you hit it on the nail! Surrounding yourself with talented people is important. Their critiques will make you a better writer. :)

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  30. I agree - a strong team is so important! Writing can be lonely, but great writing friends makes it much less so.

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  31. Excellent points Lynda. I love working in a team bouncing ideas off others. Maybe I need a writing collaboration.

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  32. I agree! I used to be quite the loner when it came to writing, hardly every sharing my stories even, but I find it helps to stick to your goals if you're part of a wider community!

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  33. Teammates are SO important to the writer. I love what you said about trusting yourself, too. It's important to find teammates you can trust, but it really is important to trust yourself to know how and when to apply their help.

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  34. I'm working on the "trusting" yourself thing. It's a lot harder in application than just talking about it. I constantly want to change my words.

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  35. Amen, great post! I couldn't agree more:) It really does take a community to put together a book (no matter how much time alone you may spend writing).

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  36. Theresa, even self-publishers and established writers need other eyes on their manuscripts before publication.

    Sharon, that's exactly right

    Susan, well said

    Madeleine, collaborations also help to motivate.

    Deniz, it does help us stick to our goals

    Shallee, yes, that's right.Staying true to our stories and making them the best they can be requires that balance.

    Michael, constantly wanting to change your words is normal. We change them until they are the right words. Sometimes it takes time.

    Mark, hehe, thanks.

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  37. The first one always hangs me up. Why do I think I should do it alone? Thanks for the reminder. I need a nudge every once in a while. : )

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  38. I'd like to keep my MS to myself until I am finished...but I'm happy to share it with fellow writers once done :) I do get tempted to share the first chapter or two at first though :) I've learned a lot from fellow bloggers and I feel so lucky to have all of you for support :)

    Happy Thanksgiving! I am celebrating Friendships this Thanksgiving on my blog with book giveaways and treats! I hope to see you there! :)

    carpediem202.blogspot.com

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  39. All your points are great, Lynda. I feel its important to have crit partners and Beta readers. With editors the situation may turn bad if we are not willing to incorporate the editorial suggestions. Wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving.

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  40. An excellent, and timely, post as I've been thinking a lot about this lately. I would add, pay it forward. We can't expect support and friendship if we don't give it first.

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  41. Surrounding myself with the most wonderful CP's evah! It makes me a much better writer and also keeps me company. What a fantastic list!!!!! :-)

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  42. Excellent advice. Everything worth doing takes work and relationships are no different. I'd say they're most important, really.

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  43. Wonderful steps. Making a story or book the best it can be really is about teamwork. And I agree with Heather about the importance of paying it forward. Thanks for this great post.

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  44. Excellent tips! Thanks for the ideas and reminders. :)

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  45. Emily, hehe, hope it helps

    Len, oh yes, it would be a waste of time if I shared my first draft of my current WIP. It's sooo messy.

    Rachna, oh yes, we have to be flexible when it comes to editorial suggestions, but we can also discuss why we want to keep certain elements.

    Heather, excellent point! It's definitely a two way street.

    Robyn, that's wonderful! And thanks :)

    Nisa, I agree

    Cynthia, yes, it's part of nurturing those relationships.

    Margo, thanks so much.

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  46. What an awesome guide! You are so right...writing is so much fun, but it's even better when you do it with others who are just as passionate about the craft as you are. In fact, I found a poetry critique partner in a really good friend of mine, and before last week I didn't even know he wrote poetry! I think having friends as critique partners is the best, because you not only grow as a writer, but your relationship with that person does too. :)

    Happy Thanksgiving!!! Hope you spend an amazingly delicious day with your loved ones. <3

    ~TRA

    The Red Angel Blog

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  47. Trust- would be the hardest for me, Lynda. I've had trust issues all of my life and for valid reasons; however, today I'm learning to trust myself not others; I can trust me since I know myself- and that's the key; as we live and learn- it's foolish to trust someone without knowing who they are; if they are worthy of being trusted;trust has to be earned. As stated- you live and learn.

    I enjoy getting to know people- and I don't like to be sceptical; always having a guard up; making assumptions,etc.

    Being forward, upfront, honest and trusting isn't easy for most people that I meet- people wear mask; so much is hidden regarding the real person- and for so many reasons.

    I've had my glass house shattered by people in mask numerous times. I know that is a reality that might seem negative, however it is a reality.

    To empower oneself with knowledge about a company-etc. saves you a lot of heartache. You can be professional, friendly, etc. without trust being a factor; simply know what your up against and do your homework.

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