What Makes a Good Writing Buddy and How to be One

Whether you’re looking to become a better writing buddy, or you’re searching for a good one, this blog should be helpful for you!
I’ve had an excellent writing buddy since college and having her around has not only been great fun, but has also helped me exponentially with writers block, staying motivated, and keeping my stories structured.

WHY HAVE A WRITING BUDDY?

Oh so many reasons! If you don’t already have a writing buddy, here are some reasons why they are great and helpful:

  • They can see things from a new perspective
  • Great to bounce ideas off of
  • You can get a taste of something new (their story) while still sticking to your project
  • Someone to be excited with
  • Constructive criticism
  • Motivation, goal setting, and accountability
  • Lift you up when you’re down
  • They know the struggles so you complain together or problem solve together

Important things to have in a writing buddy:


TRUST

Your writing buddy needs to be someone you trust for multiple reasons. For one, you are sharing something that you don’t want stolen. If this is not someone you trust to keep your ideas secret, they’re not going to make a very good buddy.
The same goes for you. In order to be a good writing buddy, do not take anyone’s ideas (unless, of course, they give explicit permission). And do not share their work unless they have agreed to it.

Writing is also very personal. You are pouring your soul into your writing: experiences, intuitions, observations, imaginations. You need to be able to be a little vulnerable with them. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing ideas with them, they aren’t going to be helpful to you.
As for you, you must recognize and appreciate someone opening up to you and be sensitive to the fact that it can be daunting for people.

And lastly, you need to be able to trust their judgement. This is a delicate balance between ego and understanding. You have to be careful when taking criticism because often people will not take advice from anyone, and this is also when they don’t end up succeeding. You are welcome to pick and choose who you listen to. But you need to realize whether you’re choosing not to listen because you’re being stubborn, or because they legitimately are giving bad advice. You cannot be so far trapped in your own way of doing things that you don’t take good advice. Or, take it with a grain of salt at least.

On the other end of this is if you take criticism too much to heart. This is something that you need to work on personally, but also it can help to find a buddy that isn’t overpowering in their suggestions. You and your buddy need to know that your story is yours and their story is theirs no matter how much you want to help each other. Trying to overpower the writer to get what you want out of their story is never okay.

And so, discerning whether your buddy has good judgement can be hard and can have a lot to do with your perspective. But, usually you can tell if someone’s suggestions always seem to be off the mark or uneducated (or perhaps even just not your style), and those are the people you want to avoid. (Don’t confuse this with your potential buddy sharing ideas that don’t quite fit with your vision. Not everyone can see your story as you do.)

NO JUDGEMENT ZONE

No judgment does not mean that you accept every idea and don’t tell people when you don’t like something. This goes along with general trust. I definitely react differently to who is giving me criticism. But you also have to know how to. No judgment means that you let them say the stupid stuff, you allow them to mull through what they’re thinking. For example, when I’m thinking of names, it sometimes helps to be able to spit out every random thing that comes to mind, which means 90% of it is going to be crap. So, having a buddy who knows that, and passes no judgment, is so important.

That doesn’t mean you can’t voice your opinion. Instead of just saying you hate an idea, tell them why you think it won’t have a good impact, why it’s not as strong as another potential idea, what problems it could cause later in the story, etc etc. Explaining your coherent thoughts about an idea are much more helpful than just voicing an opinion.

But REMEMBER, this is their story. So, even if you tell them that you think their idea isn’t strong, it’s going to cause problems, or it’s just not your favorite you have to also know that they can do absolutely whatever they want. Part of being a good buddy is allowing them to have the freedom to write what they want. And you need your buddy to know that about your writing. You must allow each other to choose what you want without bitterness or superiority.

BE ON THE SAME LEVEL

This one can be tricky. But, for example, if my buddy was me from Jr. High, that would not be a good pair. I was an avid writer in Jr. High! I would have loved to have a good writing buddy. But, pairing me now and me then together would not make sense. Cause one is just starting out and the other is experienced. Writing buddies need to be mutually beneficial. I’m not saying you can’t be a mentor to someone young or new. But, for the purposes we’re talking about, you need to find someone on a similar level as you. Someone who is actually helpful to you and someone you can be helpful to as well.

SIMILAR ENOUGH, DIFFERENT ENOUGH

Another hard one. This one has to do with vibes and thought processes. If your buddy doesn’t like the same type of writing that you do, they may not be helpful. That’s not always true. My buddy, T.S. Rather (T), prefers realistic fiction and I prefer fantasy. But we share the same quality level.

This is hard to explain…Someone that, when you share ideas with them, they get excited. Part of the reason you want them to be a writing buddy and not just a support to your writing/a fan is because they know the feels. The struggles, the excitement, the process. I can tell ideas to other people and they look at me kinda funny, like, “That’s cool, I guess.” Because they can’t see it. Other writers can see it. And other writers who share your same vibes with see it and get excited with you and help you cultivate it.

On the other hand, you want them to be different enough that they’re still helpful. I’ve met people before that are too much…of a follower I suppose. They see your ideas and they like them and that’s it. And that can be really nice, a good confidence boost, but it’s not going to be as helpful. T is helpful to me because she has different strengths than me. She reminds me to be logical. When I’m lost she helps me find my structure. When she’s lost, I help her untangle plots and find emotional arcs. It’s a give and take.


CONCLUSION

And remember that this is my take on a writing buddy. Me and T are very good friends as well as writing buddies. We keep in contact often, whether about writing or just life. A writing buddy that you have may not be as close, and that’s totally fine. The most important thing is to know what you’re looking for and what you need and try to find that. If you just need someone to set goals with so you keep writing, find that person. If you want someone to bounce ideas off of, find that person. If you need someone to read over you stuff and give constructive criticism, that’s who you look for.

The sad thing is, finding a writing buddy that you vibe with can be difficult. I was lucky enough to meet T in college working at a Writing Center (and later on we took writing and editing classes together). She thinks differently enough from me that she can tell me when I’m being stupid and she thinks like enough that we feed off of each others enthusiasm and ideas. If ever I am stuck, I talk to her. Because even if she doesn’t give me the answer, she helps untangle the thoughts in my head.

So, if you’re still searching for that special someone, I wish you all the luck!

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