A Writer’s Guide to Building a Professional Support System

Photo courtesy of Hubspot

Writing is often a solo venture, and it can get a bit lonely sitting behind your computer screen creating your latest masterpiece. Every now and then, you have to get away from your desk and join the human race, if only for a little while.  

No writer ever really works alone, however. Successful writers surround themselves with supporters from various areas of their lives—friends, family, business associates, members of their church, school, etc. Having a strong support system can help you get through the rough times, like when you feel stuck in your writing or receive three rejection letters in one day.  Certain individuals can help you find the weaknesses in your manuscript and provide meaningful feedback to improve your story. Yet others can provide moral support to help you get to the finish line.

If you’re not sure where to look for your support system, start by taking stock of the people already in your life. You don’t need a huge circle of connections, only a few that can make you feel supported as you try to get published. But if you want to expand your social circle, there are numerous places to go to build your writing support system.

  • Spouse or best friend – Those closest to you not only appreciate who you are and what you do for a living. They can act as your first reader. Many successful authors often rely on their spouse to do an initial read of their manuscript. If you don’t have a significant other, identify a close friend who you trust to give you meaningful feedback. Count at least one person in your closest circle who can act as your go-to person to talk out your story idea.

  • Writer friends or a writers’ group – The next circle of support are writer friends. Like you, they are working through their own manuscripts. As writers, they may have insights about plot and character development, and perhaps help you through those times when you feel stuck. They may act as beta readers for later drafts. Just remember to return the favor.

  • Avid readers – I like to include this group because avid readers understand what it takes to make a good story. If a story isn’t good, readers aren’t going to keep reading until the end. Readers also buy books, so they know what’s already on the store shelves. They can tell you if a story drags, if a love story is lacking emotion, or whether there are loose ends that still need tying up. In fact, they may be better suited for the role of beta reader than fellow writers because they read as much as they do. They may have a better understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish with your own work.

  • Professional associations – As writers, you never stop learning. That’s why it’s important to be involved with an association or be part of a professional group. Through these associations, you can learn more about the business of writing, publishing trends, new technologies that can impact writers, etc. These groups also provide social opportunities so you have a chance to mix and mingle.

  • Business colleagues and coworkers – If you hold a job in addition to your writing, don’t overlook your coworkers or people you associate with through your job, such as vendors. You never know if someone has experience or special hobby that could play a role in your story. For example, someone who loves to bake and has aspirations of opening their own bakery can serve as inspiration for a character in one of your stories. Or someone with carpentry experience can explain the finer points of building a bookshelf or repairing electrical wiring.

  • Writing students or classmates – Whether you take writing classes or some other adult education class, such as art history or auto mechanics, be open to connections with your fellow students. They can offer moral support, or serve as beta readers or subject matter experts. Be sure to offer your expertise in return.  

  • Community – Look around within your community for book clubs at your local church or library. Ask if they would be willing to act as beta readers for your work. Also check out meetup groups that center around reading or writing for potential connections. These places are also great for social activities and building friendships.

Writing may be a solo activity, but you don’t have to achieve your writing goals alone. It takes a village, as they say. There are many options available to find the support you need. Really, you only need a handful of people, not an entire army to back you up. Most important, be sure to offer your support or expertise in return. You’re only as strong as the people who surround you.

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