Go, Buddy, Go! (The Benefits of A Writing Buddy)

Picture courtesy of www.clker.com/clipart-14531.htmlA little while ago I promised to write something about ‘writing buddies’, so here goes:

What is a ‘writing buddy’?

A ‘writing buddy’ is a fellow-writer with whom you can share work, ideas and encouragement. 

Why do I need one?

Writing can be lonely and unless you’re very driven, it’s easy to find yourself procrastinating and doing anything but writing. It’s useful to get feedback from another writer (as opposed to your nearest and dearest, who might just tell you everything’s ‘lovely!’) but in addition to work, you can share successes, gripes and queries too.

How does it work?

However you like! You could email each other a story or article for feedback every fortnight (which is what I do with my writing buddy, Sally Jenkins) or you might prefer more of a ‘life coach’ approach: rather than sending work, you could exchange ‘writing plans’ at the beginning of each week, stating what you’ll be working on for the next seven days.  Then of course, you can report back on what you achieved, the following week.

The most important thing is that you have regular contact and you set out a few ‘guidelines’ at the start, on which you both agree.    

Who should I ask to be my writing buddy?

Someone you feel you can trust; someone who’s interested in the same kind of writing as you and who’s at the same ‘level’ as you. If you’ve just started out, then a published writer with twelve novels under his belt is probably not going to make the best writing buddy. It has to be an equal partnership, not one where one person is sharing all his expertise and getting nothing back. 

But if I’m a beginner and my writing buddy’s also a beginner, what good is that?

Firstly, you will both almost certainly improve (practice makes perfect!) but having a writing buddy is not just about getting comments on your work.  There are other benefits, such as making a regular commitment to write; practising giving feedback and getting used to having your work commented on by another person.  You could also go to writing events with your buddy and/or alert each other to new markets or competitions.

Where can I find a writing buddy?

Sally and I met on an ‘advanced’ women’s magazine short story course, so we had a common interest and we’d both had stories published, so we were at the same stage in our writing. We emailed each other after the course and then one of us suggested that we ‘swap work’. From there, we became writing buddies.

If you’re in a writing circle/group, perhaps you could find a writing buddy there. Or you could ‘advertise’ for one via a writing magazine’s letter page or forum.  The beauty of the internet means you can be buddies with someone who lives at the other end of the country – or even outside the UK. 

Having a writing buddy over the last two years has definitely increased my enjoyment of writing. I’m writing and submitting much more and subsequently, I’m getting much more work published these days.

So if you don’t already have one, why not put ‘Writing Buddy’ on top of your Christmas wishlist this year? (And, ahem, if Santa needs a little help in sourcing that gift, see ‘Where can I find a writing buddy?’, above).

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8 Responses to Go, Buddy, Go! (The Benefits of A Writing Buddy)

  1. Hi Helen – I agree that there is a great deal more benefit from a writing buddy relationship than just critiques. The discipline factor is great – I have to write something whether I feel like it or not. Also it’s nice to have someone who understands the successes & failures of this lonely business. So if you ever have the chance to ‘buddy up’ – grab it with both hands!

  2. joylennick says:

    If you’re a ‘people person’ and I most certainly am, being in touch with like-minded people, is A MUST. Interaction, for me, is so beneficial in many ways. People who don’t write sometimes treat ones who do in a curious way, as if they’re somehow a bit odd. And we probably are….Hurray for that. It doesn’t matter at what stage you are in, writing-wise, it’s always good to discuss various aspects of your work and theirs, ideas, etc., It’s amazing how inspiration can spark off other people! A good blog, Sally. Thank you.

  3. joylennick says:

    Apologies. I meant to type Helen above! (Instead of Sally!)

  4. philippabowe says:

    Hi Helen, I haven’t commented in an age, though I have been regularly visiting your lovely posts! I agree with everything you say here, a writing buddy is essential. I’m lucky enough to have my sister as mine, and though we don’t write in the same form (she’s more focused on play and film scripts whereas I’m concentrating totally on a novel right now), the mutual support, encouragement and, most of all, constructive criticism really is invaluable. I have just submitted a novel extract for a big comp, and she gave me wonderfully detailed notes, including pointing out a very bad habit of mine (having the characters constantly say each other’s names in the dialogue) that I had totally overlooked! We also spent lots of time thrashing out underlying motivations and narrative issues (as I did with her most recent play), equally invaluable. So yes, anyone without a writing buddy – put her on the top of your list!

    • Great to hear from you Philippa and thanks for your comment! It’s funny that 2 people have recently commented on a blog post that’s nearly 7 years old – but I’m not complaining! Sounds like your sister is the perfect writing buddy – lucky you! I had to smile about your (now ‘ex’) habit of having characters use each other’s names in dialogue. I remember a writing tutor pointing out to me a long time ago that actually we hardly ever use each other’s names when we speak – especially couples or people who know each other really well – and it’s true. (Unless you’re American – or trying to sell something!!) Good luck with your novel!

  5. philippabowe says:

    I didn’t notice that this was a really old post! I just clicked on the email notification I got (they arrive for every new post), how funny!

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