Friday, April 17, 2020

Online Connection--How to Find Your Virtual Writing Tribe While Sheltering at Home

One of my students emailed me this week with a good question.  He's been part of a writing group and loved the social and creative time.  But now that he's sheltering from home, he wondered what else was available for writers?

So I'm running a past post this week, sharing my tips on how to find your virtual tribe.  Hope they are helpful to those of you self-isolating and looking for writerly companionship.


Nikki, who travels a lot, took one of my writing workshops and recently emailed me with a great question:  how do you find a writing group or writing partner when you can't physically meet regularly?

I get this question a lot!  Mostly from experienced writers who know the value of writing partners and groups, but due to travel or family life or living too far from a city, they can't join a "normal" group.  

Writer's groups and writing partners provide a couple of benefits to a writer's life.  Writing is a solitary thing, and it's easy to get a little nutso when you've been on your laptop, deep in your story, for hours without interacting with another human.  Even a virtual interaction provides a way back to normal life, perspective on what you've been doing (even if it's a universe in itself), and ideally, some feedback along the way.

I have been in many virtual writing relationships.  Currently I have a writing partner who lives a thousand miles from me.  We met in an online class with Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA.  We liked each other's comments in the class and stayed in contact.  We both finished our novels about the same time, got agents.  We're now exchanging chapters for our next novels.

We exchange about every two weeks, allowing a week to read and comment, sending feedback as Word tracking notes on the document.  

I also feel fortunate to be in a group that meets monthly by phone.  I found them via one of my private coaching clients, whose work I admired, who spoke of this group.  There are four of us.  Two people submit each month, we all comment during our conference call.  

Before I found these two avenues for feedback and writing support, I had other virtual writing partners.  Groups worked well as long as the writers were at similar stages.  So my first suggestion to those seeking partners or groups is to find someone with the same needs.  

The best resource I found, that lists places to find writing partners, is from The Write Life.  The link is here.   If it doesn't work, go to and search for "find a critique partner."

Why bother?  Because there are three areas where partnering with another writer or writers can be extremely helpful:

1.  Accountability partners.  Students in my week-long writing retreats (see sidebar for information on winter retreats in Santa Fe and Tucson) often pair up and become accountability partners.  This just requires an email or text checkin each week:  here's what I've done.  For people who need accountability, to do their creative work, this is gold.  Two of my students started this two years ago and have kept going, both speaking often about the benefits.  

Here's a great article  from Writing Cooperative about why you need one.  

Best place, in my opinion:  an online class.  (Some writing teachers assign or require these for the duration of the class.)  Other places to look:  writers' forums, Scribophile, writer's groups in your area.  Check out my favorite writing schools:  The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis ( and Grub Street in Boston ( for like-minded folk.

One of my past clients loved her daily checkins with a 5:00-a.m. club.  Another student created her own--a group of writers who all checked in each morning (usually bleary-eyed) b before work and family took them over, to report on their writing.  You can set these up on any number of online platforms.  

2.  Feedback partners/groups.  Beyond just getting the writing done, eventually most writers want feedback on their work.  This is a slightly more delicate procedure.  It's important to know more about the writer(s) you're aligning with.  Are they kind, truthful, and constructive?  Do they actually like and support your writing?  Are they able to commit to showing up (are they as dedicated as you)?  Are you at similar stages with your book?  It's hard to pair with other writers who are just beginning if you are deep in final revision, although I've done it when I have history with those writers already.  

Scribophile is probably the most well-known avenue for finding feedback partners.  You earn points towards feedback by giving it.  I tried it for a few months but found too much disparity between my writing experience and those I interacted with.  Many of my students are wild about what they've gotten from it.  

I still recommend online classes as the best venue to find lasting feedback partners.  Or writer's conferences, where you can network and find groups.  I know Grub Street's annual conference, The Muse and the Marketplace, often groups writers by locale and genre and experience to create feedback groups.        

3.  Publishing partners.  When you're starting to submit, it's wonderful to pair up with other writers who are also walking that difficult road.  You can share ideas, resources, but most of all, encouragement to keep going.  When I was submitting to agents last year, I joined a "rejection" group on Facebook that really kept my spirits up, despite its name.  I also found Query Tracker an encouraging community.

Publishing partnerships are tricky, because eventually someone in the pair or group succeeds first.  Helpful to discuss this in advance, how honest you and others can be about their envy and congratulations, how the newly successful writer will continue with the group, or not.

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