Monday, August 28, 2017

Team YOU--Who's On Your Team? by Yamile Saied Mendez

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. 

Alpha Readers
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. 

Beta Reader 
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
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  Done and Done: The Power of Accountability Partnering for Reaching Your Goals, Anette Lyon and Luisa Perkins (accountability partners themselves) explain how this kind of partnership can be one of the best strategies for your team. 

Critic Partners/Groups
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. 

Writing Coach
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!


  1. I'm wondering if a great critique group could fill all those roles. It's cheaper than hiring a professional editor, anyway.

  2. Of course, but even in the best critique group (and I had one of those), sometimes when all the members are VERY busy with their own work, it can be had to get extensive feedback in a timely manner. Also, in a writers' group in which all the members are at the same stage, you won't get any mentoring, and most of us, need a mentor in a way or another (a formal mentor, or a worksop teacher that influences our careers).

  3. I have parts of these teams (two critique groups and two accountability partners) but what I think most important is the mentor figure. Hard to find, I know. I think that's what makes MFA programs so valuable: one gets mentored by so many talented teachers and writers.

  4. شركة المثالية للتنظيف بالاحساء

    تقدم لكم افضل خدمات التنظيف ومكافحة الحشرات ورش افضل انواع المبيدات الامنة والفعالة بالمنطقة الشرقية وتضمن لكم العيض في منزل امن نظيف خالي من الحشرات باسعار مناسبة فتعد شركة المثالية للتنظيف بالاحساء افضل شركة تنظيف بالاحساء تواصلوا معنا من اجل الحصول علي خدمات الشركة بجودة واسعار رخيصة

    شركة المثالية للتنظيف بالاحساء
    شركة المثالية لمكافحة الحشرات بالاحساء


  5. شركة تنظيف منازل بالاحساء

    معنا مع شركة تنظيف منازل بالاحساء لدينا خدمات تنظيف متكاملة بالاحساء والمنطقة الشرقية نظافة شاملة مع التعقيم والتلميع ارضيات وجدران ووجهات اسعار مناسبة وجودة 100% تتوافر فقط مع افضل شركة تنظيف بالاحساء

    تواصلوا معنا لمعرفة العروض والاسعار والخدمات المقدمة والخصومات المتوفرة مع شركة المثالية للتنظيف بالاحساء او زورا موقعنا للحصول علي كافة المعلومات

  6. Great post! We so need our own A-Team! I have a critique group, accountability writing peers, and amazing beta readers so consider myself lucky. I also have a writing group where we meet weekly at a cafe and write alongside each other. We all write different genres but it's really about getting our butt in the chair to just write. Plus we elevate each other with advice, resources, and networking.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!