Writing Buddies: Why Building Friendships with Other Writers is Important and How to Find Them
I know that a lot of times I post on Tuesday about different aspects of the writing craft. But I think there are a lot of aspects of writing, aside from technical skills, that are not discussed very often in ‘writer’s circles’. One of those is the subject of writing buddies, or writing friends. Having spent the last two years participating in mandatory writing workshop classes for my degree, I can tell you first hand that having dedicated and meaningful friendships with other writers has saved me from a lot of heartache (and poor editing decisions). Having to rely on strangers for feedback on your writing is a lot like trolling the internet for feedback on a where to dine or shop for clothes .The same reasons for avoiding self-diagnose through WebMD, is the same reason for avoiding relying on strangers for feedback on your written works- your diagnosis will (almost) always be crappy.
Professional writers need professional writing friends. Now, I am not saying to NOT have friends or family read your stories because that isn’t part of this discussion. What I am saying is that it is important to have trusted and reliable writers who consistently write (on a daily and weekly basis) to do critiques, reviews, and offer you feedback.
Well, I am glad you asked! The reason WHY it is so important is because these writers care about writing. They understand the technical mumbo-jumbo that is the English language and they have constant practice with said language. They aren’t related to you so that means they won’t hold back when offering your practical critiques/feedback. Also, they aren’t a professional editor, so that means that they will talk to you about your work and get your opinions and ideas down before making suggestions. They are professional friends who are like-minded and still caring and they want to see you succeed as much as you want to see yourself. In fact, they probably believe in your talent more than you do.
Over the years, I have developed friendships with numerous writers. Some are published and others are in the process of publishing. Some work for newspapers or magazines, some work for small time publications that one might label obscure. Some of these writing friends are fiction authors and some are non-fiction writers (gasp!) I have found that the people I have added to my writing buddies circle have become trusted allies and friends in my own writing endeavors. While I have pushed them to write better, they have also pushed me to not give up on my dreams. As a mother of four with constant distractions and reasons to give up, they have been the voice of reason keeping me going down this crazy write-life path.
So how do you know whether a person is a ‘right-fit’ for a writing buddy? Is it possible to have too many writing buddies? Where are some good places to connect with writing buddies?
-First, a good writing buddy will be open to your work. They will either write in the same genre or read a lot of the genre you write in. Either way, they will be drawn to what you do.
-Second, they will not tell you stuff like “oh, I loved this, it’s perfect.” Avoid those buddies at all cost because they aren’t friends. Writing buddies will find a way to be direct and caring in their feedback and critiques. They will tell you if they think something won’t work and they won’t sugar-coat it. Not cruel, but not delusional either.
-Third, they will consistently communicate with you and listen to your needs, without always giving into your crazy demands. Writers can be needy and sometimes we just want people to get what we do. A good buddy will listen to your complaints but they won’t commiserate with you if you are being ridiculous. They will be the friend that you need them to be by motivating you to keep writing and push through writer’s block or procrastination.
-Fourth, they will push you to be a better writer. That doesn’t mean they want to change your voice or style, it just means they will push you in a way that makes you want to write better. They will ask you the tough questions and demand that you don’t skirt around answers. They will ask about plot holes and lame character development and lazy descriptions. They will make you a better writer and you will thank them for it.
-Fifth, you make them a better writer. Writing buddies are friends. They help you and you help them. If it is the right professional friendship, it won’t be one-sided. You will want to help them because they give you their time and professional opinions. They help you meet deadlines and support your work and in turn you find yourself wanting to do the same.
Now this list is not exclusive. There are a lot of other ways to tell whether a buddy is good for you, but this is what I have noted after years of experience (trial and error). It is possible to have too many writing buddies. You should think of having a core group of reliable buddies who read your work. However, life does happen and there are times when you will have to expand or shrink your circle. Sometimes you will need a fresh perspective and that means reaching out to new friends to see if they are a good fit.
There are plenty of writing workshop websites available for authors today. Scribophile is the place where I do a lot of my workshopping, but there are a few others that I have found to be popular, including Critters Workshop, Critique Circle, and Online Writing Workshops. These sites offer writers a place to have their work reviewed before it is taken to a professional editor. They are also fantastic places to connect with writing buddies as are local writing groups.
No matter how you find them, enjoy your writing buddies. They really do save you from bad writing decisions, one line at a time!