Guest Blog Week: Working With Your Partner, The Writer

by | Aug 3, 2009 | The Writing Life | 50 comments

By: Carly Wells

Many of the posts we read daily address issues for the writer who is seeking inspiration, guidance, or publishing help. Every day I read those posts as much as any writer. Except I’m not a writer. I’m a writer’s partner. Being a writer’s partner is a difficult position to be in. You share the successes and tribulations; you question strategies and choices made; you’re impacted by the odd hours and inconsistent income; and, for both of your sakes, you want to help out.

As a high school English teacher, I already have a life that drives me crazy with busyness, but I still want to be a part of my writer-partner’s journey toward being published, and I’m sure I’m not alone in those feelings. Here are the ways I’ve found that have helped out:

1. Do your publishing homework. Ease the stress of waiting to see what the next move is in terms of publishing by learning as much as you can for yourself. In addition to Nathan Bransford’s blog, I follow several of the top agent blogs, writer blogs, and the Guide to Literary Agents blog. I’m also a consumer of articles from Writer’s Digest, Poets & Writers, and Writer’s Marketplace.

2. Divide and conquer. About a year into our relationship, and several months into marketing my partner’s self-published novel, I panicked when I noticed that he’d ceased to get much writing done. It turned out that the business side of writing was draining his creative juices. Obviously, this isn’t the case for all writers, but in this case I was able to take some of the burden off him by managing some of the marketing side (social networking, maintaining blogs, etc.) so that he could focus more on his writing. This reduced his stress, but it also reduced mine. Regardless of your personal situation, the point is to find out how you can work together to achieve your writing goals (for us, traditional publishing for future works).

3. Seek your own supportive space. Need a place to vent about the trials of writing and publishing? Or share what you’re learning? I did. I didn’t have friends who were dating writers or my own writing group to talk about these issues with, though certainly there was some solace in my English teaching colleagues. In order to give myself a personal space to address and explore these issues, I created my own blog, To Write and Publish. Giving myself a space to write questions, vent, and celebrate, knowing that someone might read, respond, or empathize comforted me. Consider your own blog or journal, whether public or private.

4. Share events together. Consider attending a writing workshop or conference together. Look for one where you can both benefit. If you’re a writer, too, then one addressing creative aspects of writing would benefit both of you. If you’re not a writer or you’re a more recreational writer, look for one addressing both the creative and business ends of writing.

5. Be honest. Each partner needs to be honest about when he or she can and can’t help or when he or she wants and doesn’t want help. My partner doesn’t want me picking over his work trying to edit or giving him plot ideas, but he loves when I help him with web work. At the same time, I have my own life and need to be honest about when I’m too busy to help or when I’m not the best person for a task. Honesty about stress, success, fears and struggles keeps a relationship going.


  1. Mira

    Great post, Carly. Thanks!

    This is a very different perspective – that of the support person. I could see how that could be challenging – to both support your partner in the most effective ways, as well as take care of yourself and your own side of things.

    I think your husband is very lucky to have a support partner as clear, practical and grounded as you are.

    Let me know if you're looking to take on another writer! I could use a support partner like you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Rhonda

    Your partner is lucky to have you. Your advice could go for any couple, writers or not. I hope you get some help grading those essays sometimes too.;)I can only imagine how frustrating that can be! I helped teach a college writing course once upon a time and reading their writing could be pain inducing at times.

  3. PurpleClover

    Nice post Carly.

    I would love if my hubby would participate in #4. I think it would be fun to do that together.

    Your partner is lucky to have someone like you that is super supportive.

  4. Lafreya

    What a great post. Your partner is so lucky.

    I had to let the last boyfriend go because he looked down on my writing.

    I now know that the next guy has to be supportive of my writing goals or it's not going to work.

  5. Chuck H.

    I came to writing (seriously writing) sort of late in life and had already acquired a wife and family. My wife is trying to be supportive but sometimes she just doesn't get it. She just doesn't equate sitting in front of a computer screen as work. We're working on it, though and maybe I can get her to read your post, Carly. However, she is also the world's biggest technophobe.

  6. PurpleClover

    LOL Chuck. I think a few of us can relate.

    My hubby is just now starting to get into my writing to where he really thinks I will be published. Before he thought it was a waste of my time (and his) and we had many a discussion (read: arguments) about why writing is no different then him going to play hockey two hours away (and back) every Saturday night. It's something we LOVE to do!

    Anyhow, then he actually read my first chapter (he was a secret blog reader of mine and I had no idea for weeks!) and he became a believer. Now, he has his own blog and I couldn't be more proud! He was never a technophobe but he was anti-blogs for a LONG time. He felt they were a waste of time. ๐Ÿ˜€

    There is still hope yet for your wife! Find blogs for her that cover her interests and she just might come to the dark side.

  7. Regan Leigh

    Great post! I'm sure he appreciates you very much!

    It's funny because it made me think of the Am I Crazy post Nathan did last week. Instead, my husband probably wonders if his wife is crazy! After watching me stay up to all hours and work with sleep deprivation the next day, only to come home and stay up late to write again…well he does give me quite the strange look now and then. Especially when we go out with friends and he can tell that I'm having fun, but that I'm also dying to get back to the computer to write! Congrats on dealing with the crazy! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Thermocline

    Thank you for this post, Carly. It must get a little frustrating to deal with a writer's crazies and not have them be your crazies. It made me think I probably need to show a little more appreciation to my wife.

    WV: rerat To snitch on the same person again.

  9. Carly Wells

    Thanks for the supportive comments! Chuck H.- yeah, it can be a struggle. I've always been a recreational creative writer, so when I first met by boyfriend, I was very enthusiastic about his writing. However, I created my blog when I started having struggles probably similar to your wife's- it was similar to Nathan's post last Weds. when he talked about the "Am I crazies". It's easy to have faith and be excited during the up moments of writing, but when my partner had periods where he wasn't getting much writing done, or was in a rut, that's when I had doubts. Starting my blog definitely helped me not only to have a forum to vent my own fears and frustrations, but it led me to discover a lot of the educational and encouraging blogs that I continue to follow. I hope my post helps you two out! Good luck with your continued writing!

  10. Kristan

    Nice post! I agree with another commenter who said that this mentality can and should be applied to any partnership, regardless of whether or not one is a writer. I'm feel very lucky that my own boyfriend is so supportive, even if he doesn't always understand what's going on with me and my writing.

    The only thing I'm … I don't know what I am about it. The only thing that caught me was the idea that the partner would do the marketing side for the writer. I think, as much as it sucks, it's the responsibility of the writer to understand and manage (mainly) his/her own work, even the business side. Just like I couldn't be expected to write up contracts for my boyfriend's job just because it was distracting him from the actual negotiations…

    THAT SAID: I think it's great that, in this case, you can help your partner and want to!! I'm not knocking your setup AT ALL. Just saying I think it's not something writers should expect from their partners.

  11. Carly W.

    lol Regan- I was writing my last comment with the same reference to the "Am I Crazies" blog before I saw your comment with the same idea!

  12. Jade

    Carly, what a great post!

    I've got the most supportive, fantastic partner and I honestly admit that I couldn't have done what I have done writing-wise without him.

    It's great to see things from the other side.

  13. Carly W.

    Hey Kristan- I totally agree with you and know what you're saying. Helping with the marketing side works for me, and is something I became interested in helping out with, but I definitely think it shouldn't be an expectation and writers do have to be involved in all aspects of their career (just like all of us with our own careers). Luckily I've occasionally gotten help scoring school papers in return. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Mercy Loomis

    Great post!

    I'm fortunate in that my husband has always been very supportive. The poor guy is also my main beta reader. My work is much tighter because of him, and I really appreciate it!

    I'm not a technophobe, but I do tend to lean on him a lot for the computer stuff since he's an IT geek. Although I did set up my own email and blog, woohoo!

    I love the idea of both of us going to a writing conference. There are so many freaking classes, and it would be great to be able to send him to the more technical or marketing or business based ones while I go to the writing ones. Although I did really enjoy the business-side classes and discussions I've been to so far.

  15. Matilda McCloud

    Great post! And it's so wonderful you are supportive–that's so important because writing can feel lonely and difficult. My husband works at a publishing house, and oddly enough, that's perhaps not the best place for a writer's partner to work (after all these years, he's a bit jaded about the whole process). Thanks for your thoughts!

  16. Weronika

    This is a great collection of musings and insights into a relationship that is key to the writer's life. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you!

  17. D. G. Hudson

    Great posting idea, Carly, and one that I'll show to my husband. I'm the writer in the partnership, and he's the Ideal Reader, technical reference guy, etc.

    Sometimes he wants to do some activity when I want to write, so we've learned to balance it out. I like being an early riser, so I try to get some writing in then. If you want it bad enough, you can find ways to work together.

    I also checked out your blog. Congrats on being selected to post on Nathan's blog.

  18. Rick Daley

    What an excellent start to Guest Blog Week! I'm going to make sure my wife reads this post. She has always been very supportive of my writing, without her encouragement I never would have banged out those first words to my first novel.

    It did take my wife some time to appreciate the time I spend blogging (and commenting). We recently sat down and talked about it over a bottle of wine, and I explained that most of the blogs I spend time on are focused on either the craft of writing or the business of publishing, and the activity is almost as important to my future writing career as the hours I put into my manuscripts. The open communication helped. The wine wasn't bad, either.

    On a side note, those first words she inspired are long gone and are not likely to ever see publication. However, they have been replaced by different words, arranged in a more compelling sequence, and I still owe her a great deal for continued support and inspiration!

  19. Regan Leigh

    Carly- It is so true, though! You have to watch the "crazy" whereas we can deny it in ourselves more easily! I'm still trying to convince my husband that I should quit my job and work full time to become decent at this whole writing thing. ๐Ÿ˜›

    I checked out your blog and I like it! I even found a link you put up to another blog that was very helpful to read.
    The point of that article is to stay on task, working to get better rather than becoming bitter as a writer.

    And I agree with Rick. A bottle of wine helps. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. T. Anne

    Great post. Sounds like you have a great partner. I think it's great you can go to conferences together! I'll check out you blog.

  21. Jan Markley

    Hi Carly:

    Congrats and great post!

    I checked out your blog, interesting perspective.

    My blog "Three dead moths in my mailbox … from finished manuscript to book publishing contract" traces my 'how I got published story.' I found the three keys were rewriting, persistence and stalking! It would be of interest to writers aspiring to get published.

    Cheers, Jan

    P.S. loved the link to 'emails from crazy people'!

  22. Anna

    lovely POV… thanks!!

  23. Reesha

    I'm so glad someone wrote about this. Up until recently I've considered writing as 'my thing' and not my fiance's thing at all. Now I realize that it is possible to share with him what I'm doing and draw him in.
    After all, I've learned to watch football, engage in his hobbies of watching tv and petting cats, and boat rides, so I guess it's ok to expect that he at least know what's going on in my world with regards to writing.

  24. Linda Godfrey

    Great first selection, Nathan, and Carly, this is a very thought-provoking perspective for writers to consider. Thanks for having such a positive outlook on partnering with a writer, which cannot be an easy thing. Especially when you get to the point of giving up your day job.

    Orson Scott Card has a wonderful suggestion in his "How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy" — turn your S.O. into your best beta reader. His reasoning is that no one will have a greater stake in your success, or be more likely to tell it like it is. I was planning on showing that chapter to my DH this very evening. Now I have two things to show him.

  25. Other Lisa

    Watching football and petting cats – hey, those are two of my hobbies!

    Great post, Carly, and definitely from an interesting perspective.

    Your writer partner is lucky to have you!

  26. Rebecca

    This is such an important topic – in so many ways. My husband and I had to learn to work together when he started his first business 9 years ago. Now we consider each other to be the best possible partners, a good thing as the business resulted in 3 different lawsuits that we are now handling together – without an attorney. Now that I have started blogging about it, he has had to readjust to understand I need my time to be creative as well. Always a learning experience! Nonetheless, if we hadn't learned to understand and support each other, I don't know how we would survive!

  27. mkcbunny

    Great post from a different perspective. Thanks for contributing!

  28. Kristi

    Great topic – and timely as my hubby and I are celebrating our 13th wedding anniversary today.

    I think the key to any relationship is open communication and mutual respect. He has encouraged me in so many ways with my writing – besides telling me how brilliant I am (part of why we've been happily married for so long:)), he takes the kids when he gets home from work so I can write. Overall, I think it's all about teamwork.

    Also, as he's a musician, he appreciates that I write all his press releases, monthly newsletters, etc. so I support him as much as possible as well. I think it's easier with both of us being in creative professions, so we understand the erratic hours, income, etc. Anyway, thanks for a great post.

  29. AM


    You so get it!

    For all of us struggling writers, it is imperative that those closest to us support what we are doing.

    I couldn't have started, continued and, finally, finished my first novel without the aid and support of my family.

    This is just what I needed to hear to remind me to thank them โ€“ again.


  30. Luc2

    Thanks a lot, Carly.

    I must trick my wife into reading this post. Maybe I'll tell her its about fashion. Could you please change the title to "How to buy designer clothes under $ 20"?

  31. Melissa Petreshock

    Carly, Thank you so much for this post.

    I sometimes forget just how important my husband is to my writing. He often irks me when I feel he's not being supportive enough to me, but I have to understand how crazy I often appear to him.

    This truly is a terrific post that we all need to hear.

  32. Carly W.

    lol Luc2, and SO TRUE, Linda ("His reasoning is that no one will have a greater stake in your success").

    Also, Reesha and Lisa, I, too, have learned to watch and appreciate football!

  33. Ieva

    Here's to all the writers' partners (lovers, spouses, best friends and whatnot).

    My husband is absolutely the best when it comes to cheer me up and brush me up (no way he's gonna let me dwell on pessimistic thoughts), and one of the best beta readers too…especially because he is not a writer and thus gets to the heart of the story in a more straightforward way.

  34. Mariana

    Great post, as usual!

  35. Marilyn Peake


    That is an awesome Guest Blog! Major kudos to you for being so supportive of your writer husband!

    Iโ€™m very lucky in that my husband is also very supportive of my writing. He designed my website and has done a great many book promotions and other computer-related projects for me. Eventually, weโ€™re hoping to attend conventions and conferences together, especially Sci Fi conventions since we both love Sci Fi and thatโ€™s one of the genres in which I write. I think that would be great fun!

  36. Kiersten

    This is a great post, Carly. I've found that the more involved my husband is, the less it bothers him when I disappear into my latest manuscript.

  37. Victoria Dixon

    Great post, Carly! I plan on sharing it with my hubby. Maybe we can find a conference with Illustrator agents….

  38. Steph Damore

    Rick – I agree, wine almost always helps any conversation… and writing query letters too.

  39. Nancy Coffelt

    This is a wonderful post, Carly! Can you come over and do a Vulcan mind meld on my husband?

    He really is very supportive around allowing me time to work and I acknowledged him in my upcoming novel,thanking him for putting up with frozen pizza a few days a week for months on end. But I would like it if he were a little more involved. I gave up talking about my work with him years ago. He loves the finished product, but try to talk to him about "process"?


  40. RLS

    Great post Carly.
    Quick thought, and forgive me if it's been mentioned as I didn't read all the comments.
    While I was reading your post, I kept wondering if,in fact, you, too are a writer who just doesn't take herself seriously yet. I surrounded myself with writers and artists long before I picked up the (virtual) pen. I think I was always attracted to their sense of artistic entitlement. It took a long time to own my dreams; much less work towards them. Now I have an agent and a manuscript under review with a publisher.
    I still doubt myself, but I've gotten a lot better at telling that internal critic to hush.
    Just remember, a lot of people competed for guest blogger, and you were one of the few chosen!
    Good luck regardless, and thanks for a great post.

  41. A misinterpreted wave

    RLS – I thought something a bit similar myself.

    Thanks so much for the insight Carly. So often we (writers) get caught up in what we are doing, we forget the impact it has on everyone else. I love that you see it as a joint venture.

    A totally different, but welcome perspective.

  42. annerallen

    The most amazing thing about this gracious post is that Carly has said nothing about going through the "Is HE Crazies?" Nowhere does she talk about doubting his abilites, even when he's blocked. OMG, where can I sign up for a partner like that?

    Lovely post. If RLS is right and there's a writer inside, I know she'll be great. Great writing comes of a generous spirit.

  43. Jil

    Carly, I'll be sending my husband over for a pep talk in the morning! How I would love to have someone do the business part.

    Has anyone made a study of the "partners" of famous authors? In the old days didn't agents take on that role for their clients?

  44. Karen

    Great post, Carly.

    I can't speak for anyone else, but I know I have a hard time remembering not to leave SO out when I'm in the middle of working on something.

  45. Anonymous

    You're a writer yourself. It's painfully obvious. The reason you're so "supportive" is because you are A) educating yourself about the biz for the time when you are ready to sell something and B) learning from your "partner"'s (odd word choice) mistakes.

    But interesting topic.

  46. T.Wolfe

    Now to get my Love to read this!

    Awesome post!

  47. fred limberg

    Nifty post,Carly.

    My wife is my biggest fan. She's helped me in so many ways I can't even begin to make a list. She's also quick to tell me when she doesn't think she can offer anything constructive.

    She has given me tremendous insight as to how my books, all thrillers to date, will be perceived by female readers. This is huge.

    At the moment I'm trying to tighten up my query letter. After reading the 10th or 11th incarnation she said it looked OK to her but she had no idea how it was supposed to work and had only a vague non-writer's concept of what it is.

    Guess who the book will be dedicated to when it's published.

  48. ryan field

    "It turned out that the business side of writing was draining his creative juices."

    This really is an important aspect of handling a writing career, and if there's someone, a partner, there to handle some of the business angles, it's a huge relief.

  49. Donna Hole

    Great post Carly. I have, unfortunately, written many responses to this post, and eventually settled on "a great post from a SO's POV."

    It's nice that you are so suportive of your partner's obsession. I wish you both luck.

    word verif: unplase. The sense you get when you are unpleased with everything, but don't know how to phrase it.

  50. Anonymous

    how many athors have you publisht.
    whats it like being an agent.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Hi, Iโ€™m Nathan.ย Iโ€™m the author ofย How to Write a Novelย and theย Jacob Wonderbarย series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and Iโ€™m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams.ย Let me help you with your book!

My blog has everything you need to know to write, edit, and publish a book. Canโ€™t find what you need or want personalized help?ย Reach out.


I’m available for consultations, edits, query critiques, brainstorming, and more.



Need help with your query? Want to talk books? Check out the Nathan Bransford Forums!