Behind every great writer is a writing buddy who supported and reviewed their work first. Open any book or published work, and you’ll see authors giving thanks to them on the dedication pages or in the acknowledgements. In other words, these people are the ones who authors consulted throughout their writing process.
Who would you thank and acknowledge on your book dedication page? Parents, friends, children, pets?
Contrary to popular belief, writing is not something done in isolation. At least, it’s not completely done in isolation. Ideally, writers should write a draft and then go through the process of peer editing with a trusted writing buddy. This feedback provides a different and outside perspective that strengthens their writing. That is to say, you won’t grow as a writer if you write with invisible ink and keep your writing in a diary with a padlock and lasers.
After completing school, when you no longer have a teacher assigning writing buddies, it can be challenging to find a buddy whose needs and abilities align with yours. Luckily, the internet opened doors for all the people who feel isolated or don’t have any writer friends in their physical lives. Now, you’re less likely to get stuck with the only person you know in real life who writes looking over your work. You know that guy down the street, the one who thinks reading is unnecessary for writers? Hmm. Fortunately, because of the internet, you can hop on writing boards and reach out to people there who are a better match for you.
In the following, you’ll find exercises that help set up a flawless support system and find the perfect writing buddy.
Exercise 1: Writing Buddy Character Sheet
Since the internet abides by no laws dedicated to space and time, it’s sometimes easier to meet people with common interests online. As a result, that means that you have more time to focus on establishing rules and expectations for your buddies. Also, you can afford to see if you are compatible as human beings and writers.
For example, I’m a massive procrastinator. Therefore, I need someone who embodies the spirit of my cat, Crookshanks, to galvanize me into working. Look at that face of disapproval on the chair next to me as I enter my tenth straight hour of playing The Sims. Crooksie is an absolute prince who has dedicated his life to judging me when I don’t get to work. He’s. A. Saint. Now, thanks to the internet, I can specify my writing needs and find a suitable writing buddy who shares Crooksie’s judging-face.
First, take a few minutes to mind map the following:
My ideal writing buddy is:
My ideal writing buddy can help me with:
Specifically, focus on these things:
- How in-you-face should your buddy be? (Do you need a buddy who checks in on you and chats on a regular basis? Or do you need someone for lowkey and informal feedback?)
- Is there schedule and frequency works best for you?
- What is your writing buddy good at?
- What kind of person are they? (No-nonsense, supportive, kind, enthusiastic, etc.)
The things you mind-mapped are the important qualities you are looking for in a writing buddy.
Next, focus on you as a writing buddy:
What I can offer my future buddy?
In particular, pay attention to the following:
- Who am I as a person?
- What parts of writing am I good at?
- What use will I be to my writing buddy? (Are you good at figuring out details? Outlining? Brainstorming? Developing characters?)
Remember, writing isn’t just about the end product. Part of being a writing buddy is helping out at all parts of the writing process. That is, sometimes people don’t have a complete manuscript. It could be that your buddy needs help working out a plot or needs someone to bounce ideas off of. Also, remember that you are not the only one who benefits from having a writing buddy. What your buddy needs help with doesn’t need to be the same thing you need help with. That’s not to say that you have to (or will be able to) do everything your buddy asks. If they need help with dialogue, and you’re not comfortable with that, say so. It’s okay to admit that you struggle with something as well. However, always read over what they give you anyway and try your honest-best to give support.
Exercise 2: Writing Buddy Want Ad
The Format of a Wanted Ad
Title specifying exactly what you want:
Example: “Looking for help with dialogue.” “Seeking motivational mentor.” “Searching for history buff for plot accuracy.”
Your Name/Username/Witness Protection Name:
Primary Language (and any other second languages you’d be comfortable reading/reviewing in):
- Who you are:
- What you’re looking for in a writing buddy:
- What you need help with:
- When to start (as in: I have something to share right now vs. I will have something to share in a week):
- Schedule (frequency of exchange: monthly, weekly, biweekly, every other day, every hour):
Next, share your wanted ad with a person in real life or on a writing group.
Now that you are well on the way to finding the perfect writing buddy, here’s some ground rules to follow about the sharing and feedback process. Most importantly, note that these are guidelines and you can add or subtract to them as you see fit. However, be sure that your writing buddy knows the rules you follow.
The Writing Buddy Contract
7 Rules for Positive and Productive Interactions
- My writing buddy is a fellow human being with feelings, strengths, weaknesses, opinions, fears, and insecurities—just like me. For that reason, I will always be kind and respectful.
- I will follow the schedule for exchanging writing that I agreed to with my buddy. Furthermore, if I swap writing with my buddy on a weekly basis, I won’t give them the entire, 458 pages of my drafted novel. That’s just rude and unrealistic. I can, however, divide my writing into manageable segments for review.
- Whenever I ask for feedback on my writing, I will offer to look over my writing buddy’s work as well.
- In addition, I will be clear about what I want help with for every piece of writing I trade. I will also ask my writing buddy what they want help with or want me to pay attention to
Click the button below to grab your free copy of the 7 essential rules for positive and productive interactions with a writing buddy:
Good luck! I hope you find someone to help make you a better writer!
What are some other rules we could add to the Writing Buddy Contract?