|The original A-Team|
With back-to-school, it's also back to sports! It's not only [American] Football taking over your weekend, but the beautiful game (AKA Fútbol, or soccer if you must) is also back in full force. I'm thrilled that FC Barcelona and Rosario Central are back to the pitch, and I have such high expectations for these two teams. Too bad all I can do to help my teams is cheer for them while I watch on TV (except for the one blessed time I went to Barcelona, and that one time twenty years ago when I was back in Rosario for a game).
Maybe because I love team sports so much, I've always been conscious of the people around me, my team.
I hated group projects in school, but I'm not talking about this.
In my mind, the people that help me in my writing journey are more like the characters of the A-Team show I loved watching as a child. I don't remember much of the show other than each character had their specific role in the group, and they were all equally important.
So what are the roles of the people that should be part of your A-Team?
They are alpha readers, beta readers, accountability partners, critique partners (group), writing coach.
I wrote my first manuscript during NaNoWriMo, and after tying The End I was ready for a reader (I know, I know. I shiver at the thought now too). One of my best friends is an avid reader, and she volunteered. After she was done, she didn't cut all communications or move to another state/country (shocking. I know. She's a true friend). She offered me great feedback, from a reader's perspective.
When I was ready to type my second story, she wanted to read as I wrote. She then became my alpha reader. This has forever been one of the best experiences of my writing life. Every morning, I'd send her what I had written the night before. She's text me her reactions as she read. Or sometimes a few days would go by between my sending her new material. She wasn't a writer, so she didn't expect me to read any of her material. She asked all the right questions about my story and characters, helping me notice plot holes, inconsistencies, etc. It was so helpful that the first draft of that book wasn't as terrible as my NaNoWriMo draft had been. She expected me to send her new pages at least a few times a week, and she was extremely positive and encouraging. During a first draft, you want to know if the story is working, and she was the perfect person for this.
A Beta Reader is someone who reads a partial or full manuscript and offers you feedback on it. The feedback may vary from structural comments, line edits, cultural/ethnic representation. Usually beta readers swap manuscripts, or in the case of sensitivity readers or editors, they need to be compensated for their time.
Accountability partners don't always read each other's pages. They mainly hold each other accountable to goals they tell each other at the beginning of the week. A friend and I would text our goals every Sunday night, and then each day at the end of the day, we'd report our what we'd done to accomplish that goal. Knowing that my friend was waiting for my text pushed me to get to work instead of making excuses.
In Anette Lyon and Luisa Perkins (accountability partners themselves) explain how this kind of partnership can be one of the best strategies for your team. ,
Critique Partners and Groups dynamics vary from relationship to relationship. Some meet online. Some meet in person every week at the same time, once a month, every other month, etc. They'll read a full manuscript at a time, read everyone's ten pages ahead and come to the meeting prepared to discuss (like a workshop), or read right there on the spot and offer feedback. Some people belong to more than one writing group and love it. Others can't commit to the workload of reading so much material every week/month.
A writing coach could be a mentor or an instructor. You can hire someone to both hold you accountable to your goals, and who'll give you feedback on your manuscript and walk you through your writing problems.
You could also find this amazing kind of mentor through contests such as Pitchwars, in which aspiring writers are paired up with a mentor, and for two months they work on revising a manuscript for an agents' showcase.
The We Need Diverse Books organization also offers a mentorship program. Check it here.
But the most important quality in any of your team members is that they'll be cheering for you. Yes, sometimes there will be some harsh love involved, but mostly, there will be a lot of encouragement and cheering.
What kind of members do you have in your team? Share in the comments!