by Lindsay Smith
Writing is a solitary hobby, which I imagine is part of the attraction for many introverted writers like myself. But it’s also a frustrating pursuit, one here you need knowledge, friends, and a thriving support network to weather the ups and downs. You can rant all you want to your non-writer friends about your bookish frustrations, but chances are most of them think every sentence you write is gold and that the process that turns your wild ideas into a finished book is essentially magic. You need a peer group. You need author friends!
Critique partners—writers who swap their stories to get fresh insights and suggestions—are often the first author friendships we forge as beginning writers. Sometimes you only trade drafts once, help each other out, and move on, but I know of many critique partners and even groups who’ve stuck together over the trajectory of their careers, through the process of agent-hunting and going on submission and landing that first book deal and beyond.
Generally I think it’s helpful to work with people who are interested in the same genres as you and at a similar stage of the publication process. The many writerly hangouts on various social media sites are perfect for finding like-minded crit partners and potentially developing longer friendships.
Not nearly as many people use an “accountabilibuddy” for their writing endeavors, but I think they’re just as important as crit partners—if not more so! “Accountabilibuddy” is the term I came up with my writing BFF Dahlia Adler (@MissDahlELama on Twitter). We generally don’t critique each other’s manuscripts, but what we do is email each other regular updates on our current projects, our ideas and tasks in the works, and—this is the crucial part—tentative deadlines for when we want to see those projects through.
Your preferences may vary, but I find checking in with my accountabilibuddy at least once a week to be a powerful motivator. I don’t want to be (gently) scolded if I fail to meet my goals without a good reason, and it’s super inspiring to see her checking things off her list, too! When many parts of the writing process are without any strict deadline (such as developing anything that isn’t already under contract), it’s great to have an external person to answer to when you let yourself slack.
Last but certainly not least, local writing friends are invaluable. I’m so thankful DC has a fantastic YA writing community. It’s wonderful to be able to vent to people who understand the dark inner workings of publishing and writing, and to cheer each other on in-person at launch parties, joint panels, and more. Regular happy hours and write-ins don’t hurt, either!
Get to know your fellow local authors at bookstore events and more, and don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone—some of my closest writing friends are authors of contemporary novels, middle grades, and other categories that I otherwise wouldn’t typically pick up. But I love their books, and I can even hear their voices when I read their words. How cool is that?
Lindsay Smith is the author of the YA novels SEKRET, SKANDAL, DREAMSTRIDER, and the forthcoming A DARKLY BEATING HEART, and is the lead writer for Serial Box’s THE WITCH WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD. She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and dog, and writes on foreign affairs.
A Darkly Beating Heart
A time-travel story that alternates between modern day and 19th century Japan as one girl confronts the darkness lurking in her soul.
No one knows what to do with Reiko. She is full of hatred. All she can think about is how to best hurt herself and the people closest to her. After a failed suicide attempt, Reiko’s parents send her from their Seattle home to spend the summer with family in Japan to learn to control her emotions. But while visiting Kuramagi, a historic village preserved to reflect the nineteenth-century Edo period, Reiko finds herself slipping back in time into the life of Miyu, a young woman even more bent on revenge than Reiko herself. Reiko loves being Miyu, until she discovers the secret of Kuramagi village, and must face down Miyu’s demons as well as her own.
A high-concept, fantastical espionage novel set in a world where dreams are the ultimate form of political intelligence.
Livia is a dreamstrider. She can inhabit a subject’s body while they are sleeping and, for a short time, move around in their skin. She uses her talent to work as a spy for the Barstadt Empire. But her partner, Brandt, has lately become distant, and when Marez comes to join their team from a neighborhing kingdom, he offers Livia the option of a life she had never dared to imagine. Livia knows of no other dreamstriders who have survived the pull of Nightmare. So only she understands the stakes when a plot against the Empire emerges that threatens to consume both the dreaming world and the waking one with misery and rage.
A richly conceived world full of political intrigue and fantastical dream sequences, at its heart Dreamstrider is about a girl who is struggling to live up to the potential before her.
An empty mind is a safe mind.
Yulia knows she must hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive in Communist Russia. But if she sometimes manipulates the black market traders by reading their thoughts when she touches their skin, so what? Anything to help her survive.
Russia’s powerful spy agency, the KGB, is recruiting young people with mind-reading capabilities for their psychic espionage program. Their mission: protect the Soviet space program from American CIA spies. Why shouldn’t the KGB use any means necessary to make the young psychic cooperate? Anything to beat the American capitalist scum to the moon.
Yulia is a survivor. She won’t be controlled by the KGB, who want to harness her abilities for the State with no regard for her own hopes and dreams. She won’t let handsome Sergei plan her life as a member of elite Soviet society, or allow brooding Valentin to consume her with his dangerous mind and even more dangerous ideas. And she certainly won’t become the next victim of the powerful American spy who can scrub a brain raw—and seems to be targeting Yulia.
A huge thank you to Lindsay for sharing your insights on the importance of peer groups and author friendships! We truly appreciate your time and effort put into telling your story.
As always, a huge thank you to all publishing/writing professionals who have, will be, and are participating in this feature. Thank you for helping our future writers.
We hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week!