Should You Get A Writing Exchange Partner?

So as of today, I’m still holding out hope that I will actually be able to visit my writing exchange partner, Gudrun from “Secret Life of an Expat” in France next week, despite Mother Nature trying to keep us apart through the rather curious device of volcanic ash. And that got me to thinking that some of you might be considering taking on a writing exchange partner, so here are my thoughts on that subject:

Why Are Writing Exchange Partners Beyond Awesome?

There are some writers who don’t believe in showing anyone their work until it’s finished, or at least decent. I used to be one of those writers, but I’ve completely changed my mind on that subject. I get so much more work done, knowing that at least one other person is going to read it and give me feedback. It’s also hard for either of us to skip more than a few days without the other partner sending an electronic nudge. It took me 18 months to write 32 CANDLES on my own. It took me three and a half months to finish my last rough draft with someone holding me accountable for pages. You do the math.

How Do You Find A Writing Partner?

Well, Gudrun and I actually met over the course of several “Finishing School” classes at the beyond wonderful Writing Pad, which assigns you a writing exchange partner for each five-week session. But we didn’t actually get assigned as each other’s writing exchange partners, until after we had known each other for a year or so. We were friends beforehand, but we REALLY clicked as writing partners, and when the class ended, we went on exchanging pages. That was back in 2008. So if you don’t already know other writers, I would suggest hitting a writing class to find your potential exchange partner.

How Do You Know If A Person Will Make A Good Exchange Partner?

That’s actually simple. You’ve got to really like his or her writing — I mean really like it, to the point that you’re willing to read anything that s/he gives you to read. If you find someone whose writing you like like that and who feels the same way about your writing, then propose a writing exchange. It also helps to be friends. I talk to Gudrun more online than any other person I know, including my husband, so yeah, you’ve got to get along.

How Do You Organize A Writing Exchange?

Well, I’m sure other writers do this differently, but here’s Gudrun’s and my process:

We write a rough draft, which the other person is only allowed to praise, underlining the bits we particularly like, making comments throughout, and writing a small note at the end of each day’s pages. This basically keeps us going to the end of our rough. Then for all of our other drafts, we still say what we like, but we also give constructive feedback. This is why you really have to like the other person’s writing, because you read it over and over until your partner’s done with it.

Our technical agreement is that we write every single day, but with babies, new husbands, life, stepchildren and what not, if we get five days in we’re happy. At first we sent pages at the end of every day, but now that we’ve been doing this for a while and can trust each other to write on a regular basis, we only send pages when we’ve finished a full chapter. The biggest part of a successful writing exchange partnership is making rules and sticking to them, but keeping them fluid, so that your writing practice flourishes no matter what life throws at you.

So those are my thoughts on having a writing exchange partner, which I would frankly recommend to anyone looking to finish a longer work. If any of you want, have or would never even consider a writing exchange partners, let me know your thoughts on the practice in the comments.

Photo Credit: bass_nroll

Friendly Reminder: Please Become a Fan of 32 CANDLES on Facebook here.