Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Friend Indeed

No one understands the thrill of an acceptance or the sting of the all too common rejection letter. Nor do they understand the sheer, bounce off the ceiling, feet doing a happy dance, joy of seeing your article or story in print. No one that is, except another writer. And this is why every writer should have a writing buddy.
A writing buddy is a wonderful thing. They lift you up when you are down and celebrate your accomplishments with you. They give encouragement when you are discouraged and a (figurative) kick in the seat of the pants when you need it. Stuck for a word…ask your writing buddy. I bet she will know just the right one. Not sure if a scene is moving the story along….send it to your writing buddy. He will tell you the truth…and maybe make some great suggestions. Need an idea…chat with your writing buddy. Amazing ideas just seem to flow when writers get together. Looking for a new market place…check with your writing buddy. She just may know the perfect place to send that story. Does your dialogue sound real? Try it out on your writing buddy. You’ll get some great feedback.

But there are no writers in my neighborhood you say? So aim for a writer across the country or maybe in completely different one. The internet is a wonderful tool for the writer. Not only can you find just about any fact or myth you want, it is a great way to meet writers from all across the world.

Writing buddies can be found in writer groups and writing based chat rooms. Author websites often have message boards and genre sites usually have chat rooms also. Please use caution and don’t give out your home address and phone numbers to strangers though.

Now, what to look for in a writing buddy? I believe a writing buddy should be someone you would be friends without the writing connection. Having writing in common is essential but it takes more than just a love of writing to form a strong bond. Make a list of some things you would like. Does it matter if male or female? What genre should she write in? If you can’t stand horror and that is what she writes, then you wouldn’t be able to fulfill the responsibility of critiquing her work. Same thing if you write romance and she abhors it. A writing buddy should also be someone who is close to, or above you in ability and writing level. A beginning writer will not be the same help and support as a published and/or experienced writer. Speaking of new and beginning writers…let me say this. We were all newbies at one time and there is nothing wrong with being a beginner. If possible, find an experienced writer who will agree to be a mentor. They have been where you are and made the same mistakes. They can help you avoid them and smooth out the rough road to success a bit. And you older, more experienced writers… find a newbie to mentor. They will be very appreciative. I have a wonderful writing mentor and will always be grateful for the things she has taught me.

When you have a possible candidate for writing buddy…don’t jump into the relationship full steam ahead. Take some time to get to know each other. First impressions aren’t always accurate. Meet in a chat room and email back and forth, give the relationship a chance to grow naturally.

Every writing buddy relationship needs ground rules. My buddy and I use Gmail chat to keep in contact along with email and a chat room. If our status is set to “Busy” we can still send a message but the “busy” individual has the option to ignore it (with no hard feelings) until later. We always give constructive critiques of each other’s work and if needed, suggestions to improve. We always remember that critiques are just an opinion and never take them personal. We respect each other, not only as writers but as individuals and don’t take advantage of our friendship. When brainstorming ideas together, we don’t get greedy and keep all the good ones to ourselves. Our ground rules are fairly simple and very flexible but they work for us. Consider what guidelines will work for you. Do you only want to contact each other at preset times? Should you check with the other before sending work for them to look over? How much time do you want to involve yourself with your buddy?

Being and having a writing buddy is a big responsibility. It requires a commitment from both individuals. Work is required to maintain the relationship but the reward is….dare I say, “priceless”.

Need a writing buddy?  Check out StoryCrafters


Wolf Althuis said...

This is great advice. A writing buddy can do what few others can. Actually help you progress. I'm happy to say I have a great writing buddy.

I guess it all goes back to what we learned in Kindergarten. Always use the (writing) buddy system!

V.R. Leavitt said...

Excellent post. I daresay I never would have finished my first draft if it hadn't been for a great writing buddy. She was also writing a fantasy story and we edited each others work and cheered each other on the whole way. I don't know what I would have done without her!!