Your Writing Team: Creating an Advisory Board

Business people in office

As I write this, we’re smack-dab in the middle of football season. The town I grew up in was—and still is—a football town. I LOVE football. I was in the band, so marched at all our school games from junior high through college. My friends and I played football. I even, a few times, ran the chain for JV games in highschool. It was great fun. But more than that, I saw the importance of having a team that works together toward a goal. The quarterback may be important, but he’s nothing without the team—from analysts to coaches to cheerleaders to countless others–to support him.

As we discussed last week, though writing is a solitary endeavor, we don’t have to do this career alone. Indeed, it’s better if we don’t! We all need people around us to give us encouragement, perspective, and counsel.

A number of years ago I was faced with some big decisions in my career. I knew I could think through the options myself, but I also knew Proverbs 15:22—“Plans go wrong for lack of advice;
many advisers bring success.” So I contacted a number of people who knew me well. A couple were involved in publishing, but I also contacted people who had nothing to do with publishing. Some were my age, several my parents’ age, and one younger than I. I wanted a “team” of advisers who would bring a broad scope of wisdom to the table when I needed them. This board has been instrumental over the years in helping me think things through when I was faced with a tough decision. They were, in essence, my analysts. They asked the right questions, issued important challenges, and brought much-needed clarity.

I encourage you to consider creating an advisory board as part of your team. And as you do so, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Whom in my life do I trust implicitly?
  2. Whom do I respect most on a professional and/or personal level?
  3. Who knows me well, warts and all, and will be constructively honest with me? (Think about people in the industry and out of it.)
  4. With whom would I be willing to share my concerns, dreams, and worries?

Make a list of those you’d like to ask to be on your advisory board. Then write out what you’ll ask them to do. I let my advisers know that I needed them to:

  1. Consider the issue I brought to them in light of what was right for me professionally and personally.
  2. Pray over whatever issue I bring to them, then let me know if God gave them any insights or direction for me.
  3. Brainstorm with me, if the need calls for it.
  4. Above all, be honest with me.

Last but not least, if you decide to add this group of people to your team, realize you’ll be entering into a close relationship with these people. They’ll become, in many ways, your counselors and sounding boards as you process possibilities and issues. Respect their time, and let them know how much you appreciate that they’re willing to give of their time and wisdom.

Then go for it. And see how God chooses to use these wonderful folks in your life and career.

4 Responses to Your Writing Team: Creating an Advisory Board

  1. Avatar
    Ron Estrada October 30, 2013 at 4:32 am #

    This has been a challenge for me. I’ve got a great partner in Gina Conroy and few writers I talk to from time to time, but hardly a team. I see the importance, though. This profession is just too overwhelming for one person to understand every aspect. I’ll make it my goal in the coming months and new year to put together a team of people I trust. Thanks again for great advice, Karen.

  2. Avatar
    Jaime Wright October 30, 2013 at 7:01 am #

    Wow. I just got knocked between the eyebrows — you know in that spot where you see stars as you mumble, “no duh?” repeatedly? I’ve surrounded myself by crit partners and beta readers, but advisors. Now there’s a thought!!! I guess in a way I DO have some. My mentor is more my Spiritual support than she is my line by line coach. My crit partner is my weep and sob buddy and prayer warrior. But, I’m going to put more thought and prayer into this because this is probably is the foundation of a good support, right? Your Spiritual cohorts–your Joshua and Aarons. Thank you for knocking me between the eyes in a “no duh” moment!

  3. Avatar
    J.D. Maloy October 30, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    Ron, bravo for saying that you’re making team building a goal. And it doesn’t sound like you’re rushing it either. Karen’s 4 questions are a fantastic place to get the wheels going with what kind of team you need along side you. And if you ever feel stuck. Pray about it. The Lord may knock your socks off with who He brings your way. He is SO good that way 🙂

    I’m super passionate about this need since I am so blessed to have 3 different teams. I have seen my work blossom because of the people God has brought in my life. All bring something unique to my writing process. I thank the Lord often for them.

    Jaime, many of my “no duh” moments have lead to great great things!

  4. Avatar
    Peter DeHaan October 31, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    I have an informal network that I value greatly. Perhaps its time to take things to the next level!

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