The Secret to Networking, Part Two

Today I’m continuing with the theme that my awesome critique partner Erin Shakespear posted on yesterday: how to make meaningful connections with other writers. Her blog post, which focused on writing conferences, may be found HERE!

I’ll be talking about a different way to connect with other writers. The idea for this post started with questions one of my friends recently asked me:

“How can I find critique partners?”
“How can I find beta readers?”
“Do I really need CPs or betas?”

First, why these types of partnerships are important:

Critique partners (CPs; sometimes called alpha readers) critique your pages during the various stages of the writing process. CPs give valuable feedback on elements like plot and character development and may point out potential plot holes or issues like pacing, etc. that need to be reworked. Critique partners are also writers and can therefore offer tips and suggestions that they’ve learned as they’ve developed as writers.

Beta readers become very important in the later stages of writing. Manuscripts become “beta-ready” when you are fairly confident that you have a complete story. Beta readers may be avid readers and/or writers, and they usually offer more general feedback as to what they liked and/or didn’t like about the story. Like your CPs, they may also point out plot holes or pacing issues that may need to be reworked before you submit/publish your story.

Second, what are some avenues you could use to find CPs or betas:

1. Real-life connections: In addition to attending writing conferences, (see Erin’s post on this topic HERE), you could look in your local community for other writers. I was approached by a friend to join her local writing group two years ago. These are four fabulous women that I meet with on a biweekly basis, and lucky me — they live right in my hometown! We exchange pages by Sunday of those weeks and meet at someone’s house on Thursdays to offer constructive feedback (and to eat lots of popcorn.) These people are such an important part of my writing community, but honestly, it was serendipity that allowed me to connect with them. #IAmOneLuckyDuck

2. On-line writing communities: I also have critique partners that don’t live nearby, and we do exchanges via e-mail on a less scheduled basis, often of the “I just wrote this scene and need feedback because (insert reason). Could you look at it, pretty please?” sort. One of my CPs and I use the Voxer app to talk about scenes-in-progress on an almost-daily basis. All of my beta readers except for one are long-distance as well, and I e-mail them whenever my MS is “beta ready” and then proceed to bite my nails for the next three weeks. These people are also an important part of my writing community, and I’ve traveled to Phoenix and Seattle over the past year to meet up with and tackle-hug some of them in person.
Amazingly, I met all of these people on Twitter. This fact kind of astounded me when I sat down and really thought about it. Out of curiosity, I conducted a quick and informal Twitter poll this week to see how common this was.

These are the replies I received over the next few days. The vast majority of these replies indicated that these writers met most or all of their critique partners and/or beta readers from Twitter:

I tweeted the following question right after the original:

I received zero replies to this second tweet.

I’m a scientist, and this was NOT a scientific study. The fact I conducted this poll on Twitter in the first place lent an obvious bias to the types of responses I received. I’m sure if I ever got my butt in the car, traveled to writing conferences and asked the same question, I would receive very different results. Also, there are other on-line communities such as Facebook and the recently-launched Ello that serve to connect people. I’m a member of several Facebook groups that are wonderful for writing-related support (giving and receiving).

My informal poll illustrates one very important thing:

Writers who successfully use Twitter to form meaningful relationships are enthusiastic about using Twitter to form those relationships. 
(The same applies to successful use of other social media outlets, but I’ll be focusing on the use of Twitter for this post.)
Thinking about using Twitter to make meaningful connections? Here are some key things to remember:
Be yourself. 
Any 7 year old will tell you that robots are really cool, but don’t be a robot on Twitter. Scheduled tweets are okay for some things (e.g., blog posts) but should not take up the majority of your tweets. Engage. Get in real conversations with people. The “reply” option there is there for a reason. Yes, conversations take time, but you get out what you put in. I originally met some of my CPs and betas by joining into hashtag convos or joining sprints like the ones hosted by @FriNightWrites and their #writeclub. I became friends with people by following those with similar interests and having real conversations with them about things.
Don’t be on Twitter to advertise yourself, which brings me to the next point…

(photo credit: William James Boswell, 7 yo)

Don’t be spammy. Please.
Don’t use Twitter as a means to constantly advertise yourself. There is a “mute” option for a reason. If you forge real relationships, partnerships will naturally follow. If you make real connections, your friends will be excited for you when you have something big to share, like news of an agent, or a book release, or of something cool you posted on your blog. But no one likes to be spammed all of the time with “Buy My Book links.” And for heaven’s sake, Do Not Send DM’s To Your Twitter Followers With Book or Blog Links. Because there is also an “unfollow” option for a reason.

In my opinion, Twitter is not the only way to make important connections, but it’s definitely one way to be part of a pretty amazing writing community. What is your experience? Comment below! 

Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. Originally from upstate New York, Helen spent much of her early adult life tromping around in Buffalo, NYC, Toronto, and Las Vegas, those cities now serving as inspiration for the dark and gritty urban backdrops of her stories. An author of both urban fantasy and contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of YA urban fantasies MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, and NA contemporary romance LOSING ENOUGH. She would love to meet you at any or all of these sites 😀

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