Guest Post by Rainy Kaye: “Five Tips for Writing Buddies”

What’s news? 

– Fellow Triberr mate, JW Manus was kind enough to put up a little blurb about my short The Golden Parachute at her other blog, Must Love Fiction.  For the blurb (along with several other good ideas for short stories to read), click here.

Jaye also gave me some advice in regards to redesigning my cover for this particular story, which I believe she said originally made her think it was going to be a story about pirates.  This was something of a concern myself, so once I heard it from her, I made the changes.  What do you think?

– Also, I’m dipping my toes into the waters of freelance writing, and I recently posted an article over at Suite 101 entitled “Creating a Good Bad Guy, Pt 1: Why do we often like the villain?”  If you get the time, I hope you stop by.  Just click here.

What does the future hold?

Next Friday, I’m excited to announce that I’ll be entrenched in the World Horror Convention in Salt Lake City, and honestly, I’m not sure what I’m going to be posting.  You’ll just have to check back and see.

But without further ado…

I’m pretty sure I met Rainy Kaye at Book Blogs.  I enjoy her snarkiness (even though I really don’t like the word “snarky” it does a good job conveying a meaning).  She has a blog (www.rainyofthedark.com) where she focuses on a variety of things about the craft of writing, from tips and interviews to publishing and promoting. 

She also put together a great little collection of book covers (including The Imaginings) into a series of YouTube videos entitled “100 Worlds Book Covers.”  Here is the one that includes The Imaginings in case you didn’t see it when I posted it previously:

This week I’m pleased to have Rainy doing a guest post on the interesting topic of writing buddies.  I’ve also discussed this a little with JW Manus.  It’s a fascinating topic but one that I believe could be perilous if handled incorrectly, and Rainy has offered up her advice on how to make this a successful relationship.

So NOW without further ado…

“Five Tips for Writing Buddies”

A writing buddy is someone who helps in the polishing of a manuscript. This is not the same as co-authoring, because each writing buddy has their own manuscript for which they are solely responsible. Writing buddies should be looked at like a “steady critique partner”, but one who sits through many, or all, revisions and edits until the manuscript is complete.

There are many advantages to having a writing buddy, from not having to continually search for a new critique to having someone who understands the story well enough to bounce around ideas. However, having a mutual understanding before getting started is important for a successful writing relationship.

First, pick someone you can handle working with and being around. Note I didn’t say pick someone who can be a friend. While writing buddies often are friends, or become friends, that is not necessarily the most important part. If anything, being friends beforehand can hinder the ability to be honest. On the flip side, you should be able to trust the person. But just as important, you need to look forward to speaking with them.

Set ground rules right away about honesty. Constructive criticism is the entire point of having a writing buddy, but it’s okay not to be comfortable with that right away. Let your buddy know where you stand on critiquing. Maybe you’ve never been critiqued before, so you might not take humorous digs all that well. Then again, you might be past the point of being sensitive about your work and really want someone to go all out on it, and if they can make it funny, more power to them. Just be honest.

Discuss style. It’s important for buddies to know the difference between a style preference and an actual problem. They might need to discuss the semantics of certain words and even tear apart grammar rules. Remember, you’re both learning, and it’s okay to respectfully challenge.

Don’t be afraid to give positive. There’s no room for jealousy in a writing relationship. If your buddy wrote something amazing, simply tell them so. It’s just as useful to know what works as what doesn’t, and it’s nice not to be always negative. Sometimes, tell them they rock.

Understand expectations in volume. Some people have time only to critique a few pages a week and others can do a chapter a day. Make sure you and your writing buddy understand how much time each has to devote to the process without sacrificing too much time from their own work and other responsibilities. Make sure both are okay with the amount. If there’s a significant gap between how much you each are willing to critique, perhaps a different writing buddy is necessary.

A writing relationship provides the satisfaction of bringing someone along for your ride, as well as joining them on theirs. It’s also time well spent, because analyzing the work of another writer will often improve your own. Plus, buddies will bring up new thoughts and help research when questions arise. No matter what stage you each are at in writing, there is always something to learn from each other.

Author Bio: When Rainy Kaye isn’t plotting world domination, she enjoys encouraging aspiring overlords on her blog, Rainy of the Dark (http://www.rainyofthedark.com). She is powered by coffee, encouraged by chocolate, and convinced the household felines are plotting her demise. She is married to a man who excels at humoring her.

What do I want from you?

Do you have a writing buddy?  What have been the benefits or challenges of this relationship?

Any other advice you’d like to add?

And again, so long as your comment has a little substance, I don’t mind if you leave a link.  I do it at your blogs; you might as well do it here 🙂

Also, if you have the time, check out Rainy’s blog.  Her posts are usually short and succinct.

Finally, even though I don’t know what I’ll be posting, I hope you’ll check back next Friday to see.

Please subscribe to this blog to receive posts via email or RSS feed (on the right hand column).  NO SPAM, I promise.

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44 responses to “Guest Post by Rainy Kaye: “Five Tips for Writing Buddies”

  1. I’ll be the first to comment. First off, thanks Rainy. Some good advice.

    I think my biggest concern would be trying to buddy up with another writer who had ideas about how THEY would write it, keeping in mind that it is not their story. There’s a fine line between telling someone what you believe would make their story better vs. telling someone how you would write it.

    I wonder if partnering up with someone from another genre would be more prudent.

    • Thanks for having me, Paul 🙂

      I think that is something a lot of people struggle with, deciphering what is good writing over a preferred writing style. In my opinion, that’s one of the top benefits of a writing buddy–it forces you to learn much more about the craft.

  2. Good article. Thanks, Rainy.

    A very valid concern, Paul, and one that can make critique groups of any kind very dangerous.

    A good way to combat those “let me fix it-let me do it!” impulses is for the critiquee to say, “Show me an example in another work.” Taking the discussion to a stranger’s novel or short story can ease a lot of frustrations. I think the impulse to “fix” comes from impatience, and the resistance to “getting it” comes from just not being able to see what is happening on the page.

    This assumes, of course, that there is plenty of literature on hand and both writing buddies are well read.

    • Good points, Jaye. And a good idea about being able to refer to external sources. I definitely think that would ease any potential tensions. I also think that just a general awareness of this as a possible pitfall would make both partners more conscientious of the criticism they offer.

      Thanks for stopping by. And thanks again for the blurb on The Golden Parachute.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jaye =)

      When a writing buddy requests a change, I ask them to explain why. I also return the favor. I attempt to never say “do this” without a follow up of “because. . .”

      I find this helps me too, because if I can’t explain why then perhaps I’m trying to make it a version of my work instead of a better version of their own 🙂

  3. Nice post. I actually have a couple of writing buddies and I get different things from each one, as each of us has our own particular pet peeves. I think it’s important that you buddy up with someone who’s writing you enjoy and respect to begin with. And if it comes to a style issue, you have the right to respectfully decline their suggestion. In the end, it’s your piece, your decision. I do know that I would never submit anything without running it by at least one of these buddies (maybe two). Their honesty, and we are very honest, has made me a much better writer. In an age where it’s easy to post a piece and have thirty people (who are all trying to garner your good will) tell you it’s great, it’s invaluable to have people you trust who will say, “um, well, that second paragraph needs some help.”

    By this time next week, Paul, we’ll be at WHC! Woot woot! I’m a tad excited.

    Stacey

    • Hey Stacey, so are these face-to-face writing buddies? I’ve really only talked with JW Manus about this, and I got the impression that they worked pretty closely together (as in physical proximity). I think that’s where I run into a little bit of difficulty, living as I do in the middle of nowhere. I do have a good friend who writes sci-fi, but he’s pretty protective of his work. Otherwise, any of my writing buddies would have to be virtual friends, and it just seems like there are so many benefits to face-to-face interactions. Communication is already difficult enough without making it electronic.

      And yes, look forward to WHC. Be great to meet you in person.

      • I’ve started virtual writing buddy relationships with a few other writers, although mostly so far it’s “Take a look at this, see any big problems? I wrote 1500 words today, what about you? Any suggestions for a title?” That sort of thing. We’ve discovered google docs and live chat have their advantages. A few times we’ve done some fairly intensive work that has turned out well.

        The key has been, I think, for writers to know exactly what they are looking for. ie I need your first impression (as in hoping to have written a tense scene, but if readers say, oh it was funny, then back to the drawing board) or I want to clue the readers in on how this character is dishonest, but the other characters can’t know, but I don’t want to make them look stupid and so put the passage up on google docs and let people tinker and throw out ideas. The more specific the purpose, the better the results.

        The best way to get good results from any type of critique is to know what questions to ask.

        • Yeah, I think you discussed this at your blog as well. There’s definitely a difference between a “critique” and a “review.” With the critique, you get to ask (or pose) questions for your readers to consider while reading. Unfortunately for a review, much like real life, we can’t follow our book around and ask, “So, did you get the part where the character was supposed to be dishonest?”

          The questions are the key, I think.

      • All of my writing buddies are online, and I’ve only met two. One I knew in real life before hand, and one I met after we had long established a writing relationship. Some people might find not being face-to-face even better, because they can just edit and return the documents, and not have to tell you to your face that you sucked a little 😉

        • I just think there is so much room for miscommunication. Even when we talk to people face-to-face with the voice tone and visual clues, we still screw up communication. But after hearing this and other comments, I think it would work with the right people.

    • Good points, Stacey! Honesty is such an important part of the writing buddy process. When I work with a new one, I try to explain that I will be ruthless with their work, and that’s the point of it. I expect them to be ruthless with mine in return. Because I’ve gotten over that shyness a long time ago, I offer to go first. Once they see how valuable being honest is with writing, they are usually much more inclined to be honest in return.

  4. Paul, thanks for hosting! Rainy, thanks for sharing your thoughts on writing buddies. I have never had a writing buddy. Do you recommend that writing buddies be at about equivalent levels of proficiency and experience? Does it work best if they meet in person? I’m with Paul in wondering if a different genre writer might work well (but not too different – perhaps sci-fi and horror, but maybe not romance and horror, but who knows?).

    Happy Friday, all!

    • Good question on levels of experience, Aniko. I’ll wait to see if Rainy chimes in before offering my two cents. Of course, I’ve never had a writing buddy, either. And I actually addressed your other question about meeting in person in my response to Stacey’s comments. I’m not sure, but it certainly seems like it would be more beneficial, even simply for effective communication purposes.

      Thanks for stopping by. Happy Friday right back atcha!

    • Thanks for the comment 🙂 You guys are all great here!

      I think the most important part of choosing a writing buddy is the ability to be honest and, truth be told, a similar sense of humor. Employing humor really does take away the sting, and keeps things from getting too frustrating. I’ve had the best times with my writing buddies, and some of it was mocking each others work, a little. But we knew what the line was and never crossed it.

      As far as proficiency goes, I think it’s more important the writing buddies are well-read rather than well, er, written. Meaning, they should know a good story when they see one. Sure, they might not be the best with commas, but that’s why you should vary up your writing buddies.

      For example, one of my writing buddies really didn’t know much about writing in general, but he was a great service as more along the line of an honest beta reader. He is an avid reader, so even just something like, “This part is dragging,” was an immense help.

      As we debated the semantics of both of our work, his own abilities developed and became more useful.

      All my writing buddies are generally into the same genre. I prefer it that way, because we are all looking for the same “type” of story. Like, I have a strong romance element in my manuscript, but it’s not a romance by definition (it’s actually pretty gritty). If I brought in a romance or erotica writer, they are likely to want to beef up the mushy and drama and explicit scenes, which really strays away from the story I want to tell which uses the romance as a device instead of being the plot.

      There are pros and cons to mixing up the genres, but it doesn’t appeal to me, personally. Your mileage may vary.

  5. Both in giving and receiving criticism, I’ve found it helpful if the critiquer indicates the why’s as well as the what’s. Often, that is enough. If the writer understands his buddy’s criticism, then he can often figure out how to fix it. If not, discussion can ensue.

    I’ve critiqued stuff from all sorts of genres. With practice, it’s become easy to set aside genre preferences (within certain personal boundaries) and assess what works (for me) and what doesn’t. So I don’t think it’s necessary to share a genre, or even like the genre, in order to be able to critique well.

    • Marie, great comment! It also further expands on the comment I replied before this, saying that I don’t prefer to mix up genres. You have pointed out a good exception–if this isn’t the first go at critiquing and such, then mixing genres can be feasible because the writers have learned what defines the story and move past it. But for new writing buddies, I really wouldn’t suggest it, personally.

      However, I can relate to what you are saying. I don’t read erotica in my own time, but I do critique it.

      I fully agree with indicating “why”. Either they should explain precisely why it needs fixed (for example, a grammar rule), or try to convey why the don’t like it, even if they can’t pinpoint the exact cause.

      It’s useful for the recipient of the critique to try to see what the reader is seeing. Sometimes, they’ll say something such as, “I don’t like this dialogue because it doesn’t sound like something the character would say,” when in actuality, the dialogue just isn’t adding anything to the story. therefore, instead of searching for a way to make it more appropriate for the character, the real issue is it just needs to be removed. Getting to the root of the issue might take some time, but is definitely worth it.

  6. Oh, I meant to say, excellent post, Rainy!!! Thanks for inviting her, Paul!

  7. A can of worms with this one! I could never write with a buddy. I like to hunker down in as close to dark and quiet conditions as I can find. My story takes off. My style is mine and no one elses, nor do I wish to change a thing about it except for typical editing things. It might sound as if I’m being high-nosed here, but I’m not. If I were to try to adjust my style to suit ANYONE, it wouldn’t work. My stuff would be crap.

    Everybody hates me now! Damn! That’s why you don’t see a lot of reviews from me, too. If I enjoy a story, it’s five stars. If I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

    The thing I like about writing is that it’s a solitary endeavor. My soul, my heart, my words.

    The weird thing is I’m saying all of this as I’m getting ready to start up a group for different genres where writers will want reviews, buddies, and a lot more. But then again: we writers are an eclectic bunch.

    Blaze

    • Hi Blaze,

      Actually, this is a common misconception with “writing buddy”. Writing buddies do not write “together”. They are, essentially, a steady critique partner, or a steady beta reader.

      Every writer should have someone beta read. It’s not about adjusting your style, which is why finding a writing buddy is such a confusing process for some. My writing is mine, and it’s always in my style. My writing buddy’s work is his own, and it is in his style.

      You would never confuse one to have been written by the other.

      The advantage of a “steady critique partner” is that they become partially invested in the story. For example, I know more about the characters my writing buddy created more than the average reader will need to know. This helps in the long run with things like making sure dialogue and actions are a true representation of the character they created.

      A casual beta reader will assume this is a new facet to the character, for example.

      Plus, like I mentioned in other comments, once boundaries are established, you really can have a lot of fun with it.

      I never turn over a manuscript to a writing buddy until it is, in my mind, done. I don’t want them to create characters, scenes, devices, or anything else. Neither will I do that for their work.

      Co-authoring, where the writers share the work load, is a different topic and one I cannot write anything about except this: not for me. I could never co-author. In that case, I fully agree with you.

      • Your reasoning is sound, Rainy, but for me it would take away from why I write. I love the solitude of writing. I don’t want to share until I’m finished, and then my editors can hack it to pieces if they wish.

        I also feel it would take a lot of time going back and forth with all the work necessary to work with one another. I like to help other writers out, and I certainly do with my blog posts and all, but my time is limited. As for my own stuff, I’m all about flow. if I read aloud and it goes along as it should, I’m happy. I prefer the raw brutality of my editors to tell me if something is amiss.

        Blaze

        • This is another reason I think I would struggle. That whole “free time thing” (wait, what is that?). I’ve been very fortunate to have some readers (but not writers) I trust who are invested enough in my future to help me out without expecting anything in return.

          Hmm. Maybe I can involve them along the way. Maybe they could be my… content collaborators(?). Have to think about that one (and not sold on “content collaborators” yet either :))

        • They deserve credits at the beginning of course, but they don’t expect it.

      • Agreed on the co-authoring thing. I tried collaborating with a very good friend of mine in college on a one act play. This example may not count seeing as about midway through our collaboration, he started dating my ex-girlfriend. When all was said and done, it was a very interesting one act. Let’s just say we weren’t very distanced from our characters.

    • We don’t all hate you, I’m sure.

      Honestly, I’ve been pretty leery of the “writing buddy” idea as well. For me, I can’t imagine letting someone see my work until I at least have finished one complete draft. This was a problem I ran into in college writing classes. Much of what I discussed already (they want to make it their work, they are critical of things without knowing where the story is going, etc…), but I’m starting to cotton to this idea of a writing buddy (although I’d have to come up with a better name. I don’t think I can use “writing buddy.” Although wasn’t the Chucky doll a “buddy”? Hmm. Tangent.).

      Anyway, yes, we are an eclectic bunch and our actions don’t always match our intentions. But oh well, we are allowed as much.

  8. Erik Gustafson

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on writing buddies, Rainy. Lots of useful info in here to digest. Since I am still new at the craft, while I do have a couple of writing buddies that are VERY helpful and are brutally honest (which I crave and soak up), the relationship is pretty one way for now. I hope when I a improve my editing skills to be able to have a two-way relationship with a writing buddy and help someone out as well…

    • Erik, thanks for the comment =) You can provide a valuable service to your buddies by just reading as a reader, and not being afraid to show what parts you don’t like. Anyone who enjoys reading can say when a scene is dragging, when something is perhaps a little too much, a character is being annoying, or things just aren’t meshing.

      You might want to hold back a little on giving advice on grammar and structure if you don’t feel comfortable with those aspects yet, but you should definitely consider getting your feet wet.

      Once you get comfortable with that, you’ll probably be surprised how well your other advice begins to flow because you will be forcing yourself to apply what you have learned. And editing someone else’s work is a great way to improve your own.

      Remember, the ones who receive your critique are in no way expected to make the changes you suggest. If they’re up for it, they could even explain why they are rejecting your suggestions, and you can use that further increase your skill.

      Good luck!

    • Erik, don’t be so hard on yourself. When I taught my creative writing class, I didn’t make all of them turn in something for critique because not all of them were writers. But all of them were readers. You are a writer and a reader, and often I think the latter is more important. Even though this whole post is about “writing buddies,” I think sometimes writers make the worst critics. While I want writers to read my book, I also want plain ol’ readers. So even if you don’t think you have much to offer of the craft, you have everything to offer as a critical reader.

  9. Quite the lively discussion we have here, mates.

    Much thanks.

    • You wouldn’t want it any other way, Paul! Some people work well at the craft with critiquing, I feel. Rainy is right. I’m just not one of them.

      Blaze

  10. jillelizabethadmin

    I’m going to weigh in a little late, but just had a chance to read this one now (teehee – I’m with you on the “time? what is that??” thing, as we’ve discussed previously, BELIEVE ME…)

    I have been all about your position Blaze, ever since I started writing (I snicker as I write that – since “ever since” is only about a year ago). I got out of corporate America because I was sick of working with other people. I always hated group projects and collaborative stuff because most of the time, let’s face it, other people suck. 😉

    Then I recently met another writer through Book BLogs and we just hit it off. We right similar-genred stuff but with different voices/styles, and in the course of talking about writing she asked if I’d be interested in trading material for critiques (ie, being writing buddies, albeit of a somewhat earlier-in-the-process sort than Rainy talked about – excellent post, btw!). I was EXTREMELY leery, for the reasons mentioned above, but had been feeling like I needed a swift kick in the arse to get motivated, so semi-reluctantly said okay. I figured I could always do one back/forth then beg off for the future if it didn’t go well – I don’t have time to spend on non-productive things, believe me.

    I was pleasantly surprised by how helpful I found the process. Her comments were sometimes very useful and sometimes things I shrugged off, but it helped to know how a reader experienced what I wrote. I’d been a very lazy editor to that point, so if nothing else it helped remind me that what is crystal-clear in my head is not always so to the people living outside of my head. We did this back/forth thru email and comment features in Word – always both trying to explain why something felt awkward or why we thought a little more (or less) could help the reader understand a certain point. Turns out we live near-ish each other and we’ve also now met at a local writers’ group (more on THAT experience another time, teehee), and it helped immensely, to your point Paul, to be able to also talk face-to-face because there really is nothing like *real* communication. Meeting her and seeing her personality also helped me understand her voice/style better, which I suspect will help when I read more of her stuff.

    Speaking of which, I also found it surprisingly helpful to critique someone else – it helps me see/think about things to be mindful of in my own stuff. It’s hard to find the time, sure, but we were both very upfront about time limitations and the importance of blunt (but constructive) criticism – and about appreciating that we are very different writers with unique styles, which means we won’t always do anything with every critique point.

    Anyway, sorry this got so rambly – but you know me… 😉 I’ll be curious to see what you end up deciding Paul – and thanks again for another great back/forth!

    • Rambling is good, Jill!

      For me, the face to face would be out since I’m not a great communicator in person: I stutter. Alas.

      Blaze

      • jillelizabethadmin

        Thanks for that Blaze – especially since the response looked even longer when it posted than it felt when I was writing it!

        And alas, alack – you stutter, I ramble. Thank god we write, eh? 😉

    • Hey Jill,

      Thanks for your comments. Seems as though you hit quite a variety of aspects of this process. Overall, I would just say that I’m glad it worked for you, and that I think you hit the nail on the head that each partner needs to be aware that the other may choose to disregard the other’s suggestions. I think this touches on one of JW Manus’ points about being able to refer to an external source when making a suggestion. I think that would lend to the strength of a particular point (as opposed to maybe just the other’s personal feelings about how something should be handled).

      And I’ll keep you posted what I decide. I think ultimately given my time, I’m going to have to hope that my beta readers (who don’t write themselves) would be open for this type of process.

      Thanks for stopping by. Hope all is well.

  11. It’s a sticky wicket – we need to know that we have translated what’s in our heads for readers, but also to be sure not to lose anything in that translation…

  12. Pingback: Flying Solo or Working with a Buddy? | All Things Jill-Elizabeth

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