Coming back to writing after a long time away has been strange. In some ways (querying, dipping my toe back into the writing community on social media), I feel like a new writer all over again. But then there are other ways where I remember the lessons I learned a decade ago, and I suddenly feel like a seasoned veteran (like how to handle rejections). And more than anything, I’m grateful for the people I surrounded myself with back then, and the new friends I’ve found along the way. That’s not to say I haven’t had my share of bad CP/Beta experiences (more on that later), because I have. And those experiences have made me EXTRA thankful for the good ones.
Before we get started, I feel like I have to say: sharing your work with anyone is scary. There’s a lot of trust involved. You put pieces of yourself onto the page and then send them off into the world for readers to experience. Every reader’s experience is valid and unique, since our readers bring their own baggage with them. But you have to remember, at the end of the day: this is your book. You cannot control their experiences, but you also do not have to change the story you’re trying to tell based on one person’s feedback. I think that’s a mistake everyone is tempted to make, and so many new writers fall into that trap of wanting to please everyone. You cannot please everyone. What you CAN do is see what feedback speaks to you and what areas of concern are mentioned by multiple people. Take what you need, and leave the rest.
Now, onto the bad beta/CP experience, because there’s a really big difference between someone not connecting with your work and someone being a BAD fit for you. I won’t go into details, but I’ve had plenty of not-great experiences – that time I beta read for someone, shared my (genuine) concerns about the representation in the work and got a response like, you don’t know what you’re talking about and your feedback is a waste of my time. I’ve also had feedback given to me that was critical to the point of cruelty, feedback where the person REWROTE my pages to “help” me, and one person who constantly made me doubt myself, my abilities, and was just plain bad news for my mental health. There is a difference between good and bad feedback, and TRUST ME: you deserve good feedback. If someone is being cruel or rewriting your work or consistently tearing you down? Cut. Them. Off. You deserve better. I promise.
So how do you even find your people? Some of my earliest CPs and betas came from Twitter. Others are friends from other areas of my life who also write. I’ve met other writers (and eventual betas) by participating in writing challenges on Instagram and pitch contests on Twitter. And the BIGGEST and BEST way I’ve met my people lately?
I entered Pitchwars.
Now: caveat. I did not get into Pitchwars. But for me, as a person who was coming back to the writing community after years away, not getting in didn’t really matter. Not when I jumped into the forums and found an amazing person offering to start a slack channel for other PW Hopefuls. I joined, and almost instantly clicked with the other hopefuls there. We swapped pages and queries and synopses and cheered each other on through the applications, through requests. And we all lifted each other up when not a single one of us made it in. I may have “lost” at getting into Pitchwars. But really? I won. I won big. Because I found the best group of people I could have dreamed of finding. 💜
So there’s my advice: get involved. Put yourself out there. Enter contests and take a chance on the forum or in the group chat. You just may find your people.
Places to find betas/CPs
Twitter Hashtags: #AmWriting #writingcommunity , #CPMatch
Twitter Pitch Contests: PitMad, SFFPit, etc
Monthly writing challenges! Sometimes you can find them under #writingchallenge
Hashtags: #WritersofInstagram, #FirstDraftClub #FindMyWritingCommunity