The Power of a Writing Partnership: Part I

ACFW Advice, Authors and writing, Friends of ACFW, tips, writing 6 Comments

By Frank A. DiBianca

Whether one is a beginner, a recently contracted novelist (like yours truly), or a seasoned, book-a-year pro, it’s hard to overstate the importance of having a writing partnership. A look at my own writing partnership may be illustrative.

Now, I’m not speaking about professional (i.e., paid) services, which are unquestionably valuable and indeed indispensable. I mean informal but serious relationships between author-friends, neighbors, relatives, and the like. Ideally, this would involve fellow authors who have roughly equal levels of experience, write in similar genres, would engage by phone or e-mail on a frequent basis, and meet face-to-face, in person or on line, for periodic reviews. Thus, they advise, review, judge and support one other as they each develop new manuscripts.

My author-wife, Kay, and I have been blessed to have a deep form of such an arrangement. We have live-in, retired, writing partners: each other! Here’s what we do.

  • Discuss rough ideas about potential future novels. Both partners contribute ideas freely and eventually indicate their preferences.
  • Consider elements like genre, setting, timeframe, point of view, atmosphere (spirituality, humor, tension …) and others.
  • Discuss the structure in which the novel will be developed. Kay used Plot and Structure, by James Scott Bell. I used How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method, by Randy Ingermanson. Deliberate whether things like an in-person or online writing course might be useful. Refer each other to pertinent books and articles.
  • Consider a developmental editor/writing coach (DE/WC). Think about text editors.
  • FOR PLOTTERS: As characters and plot ideas materialize, review a large array of small notes describing the scenes posted on a wall/door. Software such as Scrivener is great for this.
  • FOR PANTSERS: Discuss the general idea of the theme and main characters, where the story will begin and end, and the critical points along the way.
  • BOTH WRITING STYLES: As the rough draft commences, discuss or offer write-ups of the characters and events of the first few chapters. Are there good starting hooks? Can the reader sense where things are going? Are the characters real people and likeable or dislikeable, as their roles demand? Is the story compelling and making you keep turning pages? Enough tension? Emotion? Humor? Sensory stimulation? Here or at the next bullet is a good place to engage a DE/WC if you can afford it.
  • First major read-through and discussions of, say, the first 20% to 30% of the book. Is the story compelling? Which scenes or passages shine? Is the reader saying “Wow!” or “Good start!” or “Ho hum, just as I expected.” Or even “Thank goodness it’s bedtime!” How about the PUGS (Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Style) and a text editor?
  • These techniques may prove to be useful in completing the manuscript.
  • While writing the rest of the book, decide on and contact potential Beta Readers (reviewers). Getting numerical ratings in homemade rating forms is better (so averages can be computed) than just asking general questions, though some of these should also be included. Potential editors and publishers (self, subsidy, or traditional) and various other writing services can be found in the annual The Christian Writers Market Guide, Steve Laube and Writer’s Market, Robert L. Brewer.

You may say, “That’s all wonderful, but I don’t have or know anyone like that.” Yes, but the internet, and the possibility to create an author’s website and to engage by commenting on popular sites or blogs, as well as the availability of local writer’s groups and national/regional conferences, throws the door wide open to find the other half of your future writing partnership!

Finding a writing partner is the literary version of finding a spouse. @fdibianca #ACFWBlogs #writetip #critiques #ACFWCommunity Click To Tweet

Frank A. DiBianca is a fiction writer and retired university professor. He received a Ph.D. in high-energy physics from Carnegie-Mellon University and later worked in biomedical engineering. Frank lives in Memphis with his author-wife, Kay, (The Watch on the Fencepost, CrossLink; Dead Man’s Watch, Wordstar). He is now finalizing his new suspense novel under contract with a Christian publisher.

Comments 6

  1. Well, since I am part of the subject matter of this post, I suppose I should comment! 🙂

    Having an honest and supportive partner is one of the wonderful blessings of this writing life. For me, it happens to be my lifetime partner, which makes it that much better.

    1. Yes, Dear One, you are a big part of the subject matter.
      Thanks for the kind remarks
      Oh Partner, my Partner … (Do I sound a little like Yeats — just a little, mind you 🙂 )

  2. Your point-by-point discussion is very readable and practical, essential advice which hopefully demystifies the process of writing a meaningful narrative. I would think your rich relationship with your wife Kay who is also an author would be ideal because your mutual respect, your honesty and your intentions to serve the other’s highest and best interests very likely stir your imagination as well as serve to consider the practical elements of writing a cohesive work

  3. Frank and Kay,
    What a team the two of you make! And what a blessing indeed to be able to support each other in this way. I had to laugh at your quote in the box!!

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