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Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Building Your Writer Support Network

By Jodi Turchin, @jlturchin

Part of The Writer's Life Series


JH: Writing is a tough business, so it's important for writers to build a strong support system. Jodi Turchin shares tips on building a support network to get you through the tough times, as well as celebrate the good. 

Jodi Turchin is a Young Adult novelist represented by Dawn Frederick at Red Sofa Literary. She’s also a photographer, a high school English teacher, an adjunct college professor, and a former actress and director.

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Take it away Jodi…

Being a writer is a solitary activity. We come up with our ideas, write them down, build the story, write the novel, all by ourselves. It can be lonely. 

When I first started writing, I didn’t even want to share my work with anyone – it was mine. But as I started to get more serious about my writing and the thought that maybe someday, I might be interested in publishing, I knew I had to step out of my writing cave and build a network. Not just any network, but one that would support me as I navigated the maze of publishing. 

And I learned that there are several different areas in which I found support.

1. Professional Associations. 


My slow entrance into the world of children’s and young adult writers came in the form of author Alex Flinn. I was attending a presentation on “Why Boys Don’t Read” at my local library – it was geared toward teachers, and that is my day job. 

Flinn was one of four YA authors on the panel that day, and afterward, I bought a copy of Breathing Underwater and while she was signing it, I shyly admitted that one day, I’d like to be on her side of the table. She took out her card, wrote the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators website on the back, and said that was where I should start if I were serious about writing for children. 

So find your professional association. Mine was SCBWI, and I also joined the Romance Writers of America for a year. Finding a group of people who do what you do is wonderful. 


Once we’ve put the words on paper, it can help to have other eyes or ears on it to gauge what needs to change during the revision process. Because we all know no first draft is ever perfect, right? 

Finding a strong critique group or set of critique partners can help you not only make your manuscript better, but give you someone (or a few someones) to bounce ideas off of who totally understand that your characters are people and how can you possibly hurt them? Your friends in the real world won’t get that. Unless they’re also creatives, but that’s another point. 


Sometimes you’re lucky enough to find a person who has experience in the industry and they’re willing to take you under their wing and help you. I found mine by taking different workshops she offered to the public, and then socializing with her at SCBWI events. Eventually, she invited me to join her by-invitation-only critique group. That group no longer exists, but she is always there when I need her to talk me down off a ledge, so to speak. 

4. Select Social Media. 


I use Facebook mostly for personal connections, but I also had a Twitter account that was pretty dormant. I decided to dedicate it to writing and followed writers I admired and grew my followers mostly among writers. 

Sometimes reading posts from others who are in your writing boat can make you feel better about your own trials and tribulations of the journey. Conversely, reading about others’ success when you’re mired in misery can bring you down, but I try to look at it as “if they can do it, I will too, just not today.” 

Having an online community of like-minded folk to turn to when you hit a block or are frustrated with your WIP can be very helpful. Or, at the very least, a pleasant distraction. 


Here’s where I say tread carefully, when deciding which of your family and friends you let into your writing world. Some of them will support you wholeheartedly. 

My “pet rock musician,” otherwise known as my favorite companion, spent much of his younger life as a touring musician and dabbles in a little personal writing. So I know if I share with him the struggles I’m feeling with a manuscript or if something went really well and I want to celebrate it, he’ll be right there commiserating or waving the figurative pom poms in solidarity. 

On the other hand, I don’t talk too much about my writing with my parents, because they don’t understand the industry. I remember about ten years ago trying to get them to understand how long it can take to have a manuscript an agent will love, then revise and polish to submit to editors, etc. My father grumbled, “You won’t get published until you’re fifty.” (Side note – I just turned fifty and still am not published, but I’m not worried.) 

Obviously, you want to have someone to talk to about your writing but be aware that those closest to you might not be your best choices. 


Every writer needs a support network, and when you build one, you have outlets to turn to when writing gets hard (as my friend Stacie Ramey puts it, when “writing is being a bad boyfriend”) or when you want to celebrate something, or to bounce ideas off of when you’re thinking about writing something new, or a new genre. 

To quote Stephen King, “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” When you open that door to invite people in, make sure it’s people who are going to lift you up, not put you down.

4 comments:

  1. The advice regarding friends and family is spot on. There will be those who totally get it be the wind beneath your wings while others will, well...not be so helpful.

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    Replies
    1. Sad, but true. Jodi has good advice there.

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