Six reasons why you need a writing buddy – now!
I can’t thank my bestest (not-only-writing) writing buddies enough. Without them, my writing and my confidence wouldn’t be where it is now. AND we’d have missed out on so much (not-only-writerly) FUN!
If YOU don’t have that special writing buddy yet, go and look for one. See who makes you click, who writes in a similar genre (or totally not!), who has your kind of humour and outlook on life and writerly things in particular.
I was lucky to find my best writing buddy more than 13 years ago. OMG, we’re growing old together! 🙂 This is a long time, we know each other inside out by now, we have in-jokes and almost seem to know what the other is thinking most of the time. We became so close friends, we talk about everything, but writing is the most intense exchange. We’ve developed with each other and through each other. I’m talking about the wonderul, weird, awesome Elaine Coetzee, based in South Africa, and yes, we’ve never met in person, we “only” chat, but she’s like a sister to me.
We started writing more than 13 years ago, and since then developed considerably, but always with the other as first critique-partner, supporter, friend and colleague. Without her, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
My other important writing buddy found me (or did I find her?) on Twitter. Yes. We discovered we write in the same, rare genre (Viking histfic), we live closer than I could ever have dreamed (though American, Eremi Amabebe resides in Germany, only 2 hours from me!), and we just clicked on several levels. Our conversations soon became phone calls, up to a point where we call each other almost every working day, before or while we are writing. To discuss our current projects, or more general outlooks on writing, “the industry”, “the craft”, or life.
We have so much fun, but such deep and meaningful discussions, too. It’s invaluable. PLUS, we can meet for a stroll through cafés and talk writing for a whole day — and this year, we even took my car and went north, for our very own research adventure-trip to Viking Haithabu/Hedeby.
It was one of the best weekends of my life! Chatting, plotting, researching, discussing, dining, reading, dreaming…together SO much more fun! In the car on our way back, we spent HOURS plotting a new project together…
So here’s my top reasons why every writer needs a good writing buddy, who is a close friend, but also knows and can critique your work. And it’s always a MUTUAL thing, these exchanges go both ways, so both parties can profit from the collaboration (though most of the time it doesn’t feel like work, it’s chatting, laughing, thinking…)
Brainstorming/developing ideas, solving writer’s blocks:
I either have an idea for a new project, or a story under way. So in both cases, the writing buddy can help develop those ideas, brainstorm plots and plot turns or even solve writer’s block, in case I got stuck somewhere and need an objective view and fresh input. So far, my buddies have never failed me! We always managed to work out the best way to take a story forward, often with ideas that are theirs, not mine, and which helped propel the story forward. Thanks, guys, you’re brilliant!
Whenever we have either a new idea, or are stuck with a current project, we chat/phone, and bounce ideas off each other. The new perspective on things can solve most problems, or, in rare cases, we decide that the project needs rest and just isn’t ripe. In either case, I don’t feel like a failure, because we talked it through and decided together what would be best.
I can’t stress this enough. Due to personal circumstances, we often cannot be there with each other as much as we liked to. But whenever we “team up” and write “together”, we just are so much more productive than if we’d write on our own. So we chat/phone before writing, quickly talk about what we want to achieve, or where we need last minute input, and then we make an appointment a few hours later (this is important!) to check back on each other. Sometimes, we can soothe each other when it didn’t work as planned, or we exchange the achievements and celebrate the good work, quite immediately. There’s nothing like an immediate “wow, this is just brilliant!” to keep you going with a new story! And this is the secret to productivity. We write MUCH more in a shorter period of time when there’s someone in the background, cheering us on, looking over our shoulder, giving advice.
With Elaine, I recently spent TWO frenzied weeks of writing “together”, meeting before, during and after the typing, and I did two completely new short stories, edited another two, and started a third. It wasn’t even exhausting, because as friends, it’s not always work, work, work, but also feasting our eyes on the current writing muse (well, handsome, preferably ;-)), talking rubbish and giggling a lot together. Like that, our productivity skyrockets. Work is FUN together!
The immediate feedback can prevent major slip-ups. Just like brainstorming can help through blocks or help plan, the exchange can also quickly avoid wrong turns. When we exchange what we’ve written almost straight away, knowing it’s all unedited and just a draft, we immediately know what works and what doesn’t. To be precise:
To some it may sound daunting or even useless to exchange writing “right from the oven”. But we ignore grammar and spelling, just point out the general impression, plausibility of the plot and characters. Does the scene deliver what we said to each other BEFORE we started the writing session? Does the character sound “real” or are there actions that don’t make sense? We can talk it through, explain, maybe change direction or mood immediately. Before we have the whole draft down and it somehow doesn’t work. Here, our buddies have to be very honest, outspoken, and detailed. It can hurt, but it came from a friend who wants to bring out your best! If asked what’s a writing buddies most valuable streak, I’d say: honesty.
My buddies have torn apart parts or even half of a story I’d written, and I was really confused and sad at the time. But usually, they are right. And I’m equally honest and directly tell them why certain things aren’t “working” yet. So very often we find that we need to go back, and this means, only the 1 or 2 hours of writing that were agreed on, and alter things so that the writing buddy is satisfied — or you can convince her otherwise. We agree where to flesh out, explain, or cut back. All BEFORE we are in too deep to change direction.
Once the draft is done, we know each other’s work inside out. We know what the other wanted to achieve, and can give feedback accordingly. We can work on the structural development together, or just exchange the finished piece and give impressions and edit. We edit most of our stories on an exchange-basis — and this is invaluable for all writers: the second pair of eyes, the first in-depth look at all things grammar, structure, plausibility, phrasing. We get much more rounded stories that way, and with no cost. From there, we can move on to professionals with a much better feeling, and the invisible support of our buddies bolstering us up.
Away from our projects, a writing buddy is helpful on many levels. We can do research together (especially on names, incidents etc.), exchange motivational pictures, videos, or articles, we can talk all things “craft, technique, industry…”, we even can do research trips together. The weekend at Haithabu/Hedeby Viking museum and open-air sites was just AMAZING, and so much more intense being done together. We explored the sites, the area, went on walks together, discussed the museum’s exhibits and theories, talked Vikings over dinner, plotted stories together, sat up half nights watching Viking movies and videos. And we talked all the other stuff, too. It was writerly and personal bonding at a very deep level, and I’ll never forget that weekend.
We also came home with new story ideas and SO much motivation to sit down and work!
And this sums up the value of a writing buddy as a friend. As we are “in it together” and help each other through good and bad times, work-wise and life-wise, the connection is deep and valuable on many levels. We have fun just chatting, being silly or childish, then again we have hour-long discussions about some new developments in publishing. We get new perspectives and a fresh opinion on everything. Which in turn fuels the writing, so we have more to talk about, and can write more…in short:
We just have fun working together!
There’s no underestimating this — the motivation and support we get. We can moan, rant, cry and just be silly. We can exchange pictures of artefacts or of hot new characters to use (teeheee). We can drool and laugh and talk nonsense if we need to take a break and step back. But ultimately, it will lead to more ideas and new motivation.
No professional editor could give you that 😉
So: go out there, value your writing buddies, or go find your tribe of people who support you all along the bumpy path our “being a writer” is.
Go on, tell us all about your GREAT WRITING BUDDIES! Or did you maybe make a bad experience, were let down? What aspects of a good buddy would you add here? Please comment and I’d be HAPPY to hear!