I have a writing buddy. I do. Technically, I have two, but there's one I turn to more often than not. AD Spencer(everyone wave hi!). I think I go through every step of every story I ever write with her, and I do this on a daily basis. I mean, from little flashers (stories under 1000 words) to novel plans. She knows everything. And likewise, she does the same with me.
And that got me thinking... not everyone has a writing buddy. I find that kind of tragic. I mean, sure there are some cons to it (ones that rarely bother me, if at all), but the pros far outweigh it if you have a proper buddy. And I'm a glass half full kind of person, so I'll start with the pros.
Pro #1: If you've established a tell all honesty policy, they can often stop you in your tracks before you write yourself into stupidity. We've all had ideas we've questioned somewhere along our prose. Having a buddy that's well versed in your style is so incredibly useful when it comes to getting the answer to the ever-important question: "Does this sound dumb to you?" Or it's popular variation: "Does this make any sense at all?" Now, AD and I are best friends as well as writing buddies so we know we're not out to hurt each other. But sometimes, we fudge the truth. Not a lot. Just enough so that the other can tell what we really mean. (She can pop in here and tell me if I'm wrong about the fudging). I'll discuss that more under my cons.
Pro #2: Editing. We've all had to do it, and we all hate it. Or, at least, we hate it when it comes to our own stuff. (I actually don't mind editing other people's works). And sometimes editing our own stuff makes us miss mistakes because our eyes are tricky devils who like to see things the way we want them to, instead of the way they are. This is where having a writing buddy is especially helpful. They don't know how you meant to write it; they only see the typos you've loaded it down with. And that's great because then they can tell you where they are and suggest another round of edits altogether. This also works in the case of continuity errors (which can occur even in short stories, believe me).
Pro #3: Having a writing buddy--especially one with as much on his/her plate as you--can be a stress reducer. It's great to exchange rants on how scenes aren't working, characters aren't fleshing out, or on the things that are keeping you away from the story when all you want to do is write (this may only apply to those who aren't hermits w/ wifi and if you are a hermit with wifi you are truly blessed). After having a long rant with AD either via phone or chat, I often feel pumped and ready to write where before I might have felt like crawling back into bed. And on that subject...
Pro #4: Cheerleader. This one basically speaks for itself, but to clarify just a bit... it helps a whole friggin' lot when you've got someone constantly telling you "you can do it."
Pro#5: Memories. Okay, hear me out on this one. I'm a girl who likes to laugh. In fact, I love to laugh. I would go so far as to list laughing as one of my hobbies. I find irony hilarious, love stand-up comedians, and I love to be nostalgic and look back on past instances where I've nearly busted a gut. But, in writing, the stuff that cracks you up not everybody gets. For example, you find a typo in a line of dialogue that accidently has your oh-so-innocent character shouting a swearword. That's funny to you, but try to share that with a loved one that isn't a writer or isn't up to speed with your writing. You have to explain why it's funny before you even get to the funny part. And to quote a favorite fictional character, the Joker, "If you have to explain the joke, then there is no joke!" But with an up-to-date writing buddy, all you have to do is quote the typo, and they laugh right along with you. Good times. (PS, as if you couldn't guess, totally don't own the Joker, just quoting).
Pro#6: Competitor. Now, this one can double as a con depending on how vicious you are. I mean this in a fun light-hearted sense. AD and I like to call it "throwing down the gauntlet." And we set punishments if certain things are met. For example, she too is a fanfiction writer--for leisure and fun like myself. And we both decided to do fanfiction NaNoWriMo 2010. So we set a challenge. We had to finish, or for every section of 5k-10k we didn't finish, we had a punishment. For us, it was writing fanfictions about things we hated. We had a different one for each 5k up until 50k--where your reward was finishing NaNoWriMo. I'll tell you, that's probably the reason I finished last year. I knew she would hold me to the challenge--as I would to her. AD once told me that she got the idea from reading about another set of writing friends who set the goals of submitting so much a week to publishers. By the end of the week, whoever lost had to buy the round of drinks when they went out. The fanfiction punishment was our poor-man's answer. But you know what? It did its job. Talk about motivating.
Now that I'm done with the pros, let's do cons, shall we?
Con #1: Fudging the truth. This one can be a huge obstacle. Now, because of how well AD and I know one another, we can tell when we're being nicer than what we really mean. For example, I'm also a fanfiction writer--for leisure and practice, as stated above. And I was discussing an idea for an upcoming scene in one said fanfiction. When I had finished and asked what she thought, she replied with a tight, "Yeah... good. But you need to play it just right." I heard the tones underlying it. And when I was of a saner mind, I re-examined the scene. Yeah, I chucked it. This is a good thing when it comes to me and AD. However, if you don't have this relationship with your writing buddy (or group, I suppose these could apply to as well) then this is a major con. Honesty is a must. And if not honesty, then a good feeling for subtext. This also couples with the idea of letting your buddy know that you can be told that something was bad or needed to be changed without running to a corner, sobbing hysterically.
Con #2: Time. It takes time to read stuff. That's just a fact. And it takes time to edit. And if your buddy is as crunched for time as you are, that proposes a problem. Remember that the world doesn't revolve around you and your epic story so you won't pester your buddy to death about reading something by a certain time. Now, requesting that they have it done within a certain span is all right so long as you can understand--likewise--that that may not be possible. Speaking of not revolving around you...
Con #3: Listening. Now, I don't mean having to listen to your buddy is an over-all con. I enjoy listening and working out ideas on works not my own. I enjoy being supportive and encouraging. And that's my point. If you don't enjoy these things, then you're probably best left alone. Having a writing buddy means being one, and if you don't want to be one then it's simply not fair.
Con#4: Competition. See above for the positive side to this. The negative competition comes in the form of both you and your buddy writing and submitting at the same time. Sometimes it's hard to be truly happy for a buddy when they got the spot in the anthology and you didn't. But if you can truly be happy for them, then good for you! (I'll add that it helps if the buddy has been a longtime personal friend as well). Also, if you have any sort of insecurities, that comes into play here. You might feel overshadowed or that they're just better at getting the work done than you. These are things that you need to discuss in earnest with yourself. Odds are though, your buddy feels the same way about you. But if you can't work past this, then, again, it's probably best to go it alone.
And that's it. I can't think of any more cons. But, looking back over this list, I still feel that--for me at least--the pros outweigh them. If anyone has more pros, or cons, feel free to comment and let me know! Hope this little insight into writing buddies helped. Until next time!
--Originally posted on my writing blog on my site here.