There are lots of assets when it comes to writing. Time, inspiration, sustained love of something that exists mostly in one’s mind. But I have to say, writing friends are way up there on the list of necessities, and I, for one, would not survive this business without them.
A few small reasons writing friends are the actual best:
1. Critique partners and sounding boards
While I don’t trade manuscripts with all my writing friends — we’re all busy at different times, or we have established critique partners already, or that’s just not part of our relationship — I do have a few friends whose writing advice I cannot do without.
Even if they don’t read the whole book, or we just talk about the plot or characters, having someone who knows the story is invaluable. Just recently, friends have pushed me to think about a character in a different way, or helped me find an important piece of the story that was missing, or even just reassured me that my book is really freakin’ cool. (Thanks, guys.)
In addition to helping make the story better, writer friends are just useful for morale. We can be really critical of our own stories sometimes, and it’s nice to be reminded that you are a good writer and you’ve made good books before.
2. Sharing industry knowledge
Look, publishing is a really weird business. Like, really weird. Explain it to anyone in any other business and they just give you this look like . . . how is publishing even still around when it runs like this? Nobody knows! But it’s still here, being publishingy.
There are lots of great explanations for different parts of publishing available online, or even just as general knowledge you can pick up by paying attention to authors and industry pros on social media. But some details are only whispered about. Like how an imprint treats their non-blockbuster authors, or how long it took for an editor to get back to someone, or whether an agent is communicative.
That kind of knowledge — useful information for an author to have to help them make the best choices for their careers — is primarily acquired through relationships with other authors and industry people.
3. Complaining about the business and mourning setbacks
This is a really difficult industry sometimes, especially when it feels personal but it’s actually business. Writers are emotional creatures, which means sometimes we need to vent, and who better to vent to than someone who understands exactly what you’re going through?
When a manuscript doesn’t sell for market reasons, or a book flops, or your editor leaves, it can feel isolating. But having writer friends who’ve been there (or know someone who’s been there) really does help. With the encouragement of a few good friends, you’ll be back at your computer and working on your next book.
4. Celebrating successes
And on the flip side — no one understands the joy of hitting the list like author friends, or the relief of selling another book after being on sub a year, or even just finishing a manuscript after a particularly big blow to the career. Because writer friends understand the lows, they also understand the highs in a way that people outside the industry cannot.
As with any functional relationship, everyone involved has to give as much as they get. So I don’t just give my manuscripts to my friends; I read theirs as well. I don’t vent to them; I listen to them as well. And so on.
How do your writing friends make your life better?