You Gotta Have Friends

As a writer, I imagined that the way I’d make the most progress would be sitting in front of my computer screen, slogging away, churning out story after story. Certainly, there is something to be said for the solitary discipline of writing. Only you can do the hard work of developing and creating the story and putting it on the page.

But having friends – writing friends – adds so much to your journey as a writer. Your significant other and even your bestie may lack the needed objectivity to help you or your writing. They may have difficulty offering constructive criticism. Or, they may not be familiar with hallmarks of good picture book writing: story, character, structure, or language.

How can your writer friends help you grow as a writer?

Join a critique group – Having writer friends who will read your latest draft and offer constructive input, fall in love with your story or characters and root for you to press “send.” You need these people in your writer’s life. Why? Because they have a bit of objectivity. But they also have a commitment to help you move along.

Participate with another group, perhaps not necessarily a critique group, but a members of a professional writing organization. You’re bound to meet and rub elbows with other writers…some who are further along in their journey to publish or to publish multiple titles or to write in a variety of genres. These writers inspire you. They show you what is possible and help you to see what is possible in your own career. You also meet writers who are just starting out…and for them, you become an early career mentor. You might encourage someone to keep writing. Perhaps, they’re on their first manuscript and you’ve already polished a few. You’re letting them know what’s possible, if you continue on the journey of becoming a professional writer.

Books are friends, too! Don’t neglect the value of mentor texts and read as many as you can check out from the library. Much of what I’m learning about writing comes from what I’m reading. After reading multiple titles by the same award-winning author, I’m beginning to grasp, almost intuitively, what makes the text work. I’m beginning to sense the author’s craft as I read, re-read, and even dissect the selection.

Not only are mentor texts good friends, but professional books and readings make valuable companions, too. Editors, publishers, and agents publish books on writing that gets their attention. I have three books that I frequently consult information about query writing, manuscript formatting, and picture book structure. I know these industry professional friends and their advice won’t let me down.

And what about the imaginary friends? Social media has made it possible to connect with people at all levels of the writing profession. If you don’t share any friends in common with an author, you’re still able to connect or follow them on one or multiple social media platforms. You’re able to learn about their upcoming sales, visits to your local area, book signings or other events. You may be able to “chat” with them or even pitch your latest manuscript.

Although that I jokingly refer to these friends as “imaginary,” it has happened that over the course of time by liking, commenting and sharing each other’s posts, we’ve become friends “in real life.” These friendships began virtually, but later paved the way for genuine appreciation among writers and opened the door for in-person sharing.

So, yes, writers have many days and nights of solitary toil. But, the writer who has friends and plenty of them will have a vast reservoir of support, critique, and encouragement to buoy her on his writer’s journey.