Guest Post by Em Shotwell author of Blackbird Summer
So, dear three readers (one of which thought merchantofvice.com was a kinky german porn site) a nice person, and fellow City Owl author named Em Shotwell decided to do the (non-gendered) "bro thing" and send me some advice to the writing crowd. Friends are important, said every Barney episode ever, but increasingly so for writers. Writers balance on a thin scaffolding taking in the beautiful scenery of the mind, but can easily fall deep into our own head. Em has some great advice on how to succeed in this isolating field.
The Six friends every writer needs.
Someone once said that writing a short story was a love affair, but writing a book was a marriage. I agree, but what they didn’t say, was that the marriage is completely dysfunctional.
A novel is a greedy spouse, sucking up your free time and demanding to always be put first. You become obsessive, thinking about the novel and how you can make it better. You blow off exercise and drink an obscene amount of caffeine, just to stay focused on your book. You fear the rejection that is inevitable (hello query letters), and before you know it, you are a crazy person, babbling to yourself about characters and plot holes. You have no idea who is president or about the newest dance craze, or even when you last showered.
Okay. Maybe that is a little dramatic. Maybe.
Creating people who kill each other in a fake world with its own rules, can be draining. (Not to say it isn’t also very rewarding and kind of fun…but definitely draining).
But fear not! You don’t have to be destined to end up in a sadistic marriage with the written word. With the support of like-minded (and sometimes opposite-minded) friends, you can marry your book and hold on to your sanity. Surrounding yourself with these six friends will keep you happy and healthy…at least for now.
The mentor is the friend who gives you hope. They are often your rock, offering advice and suggestions. This friend is a few (or more) steps ahead of you in their writing career. They are a fount of knowledge, and their brain is yours for the picking. Learn from their mistakes, and ask them all the questions you’d feel dumb asking anyone else.
They won’t mind, because they have been there. They understand.
If you were running a 5k, this is the friend who would be trudging along, keeping pace next to you. This doesn’t mean that you are necessarily in the exact same boat all of the time (You may be revising, while they may be querying, etc.), only that you began your writing journey about the same time. You and the comrade celebrate each other’s accomplishments, and commiserate over form rejections.
This person UNDERSTANDS, because they are there, too.
The spaz may or may not also be a writer. They are that friend who is seriously super excited for you. They share your Facebook posts, comment on your blog entries, and retweet your pitch party tweets. They offer a great boost of confidence because they truly want you to succeed.
The “Rule of Spaz” states “to have a spaz, you must also be someone else’s spaz.” See? It’s a rule. I didn’t make it up. So go be happy for someone and spaz out a little.
The Pleasure Reader
I know what you are thinking—if you have writer friends then, DUH, they read.
But this friend, the pleasure-reader, is different. They have no desire to be a writer. They love a good story and often have their nose in a book, not reading critically, but instead for pure joy.
The pleasure-reader—unlike the comrade—doesn’t want to talk about plot devices or tropes. They may not can tell you how to fix that problem in Chapter 9, but rest assured they read enough to know that there definitely IS a problem.
The pleasure-reader has most in common with your audience, and is a valuable resource—especially if they are open to perusing your pages.
Just don’t get mad when they tell you they hated Chapter 9…but aren’t exactly sure why.
A writer with a friend who doesn’t read? Is it possible?
Yes. Not only is it possible, but it is important for your sanity. The non-reader will force you get your head out of your story and think about something else.
The non-reader doesn’t care about your word count. Their eyes glaze over when you gush over your characters, and they couldn’t care less about comp titles. The non-reader doesn’t get your dorky literary jokes and will call you out when you sound like a douche. (Example-Hey, we are all glad you came to this party—but nobody wants to hear about who is going to assassinate good King Brickadeer or if you should give him blond hair or black hair. Drink this glass of wine and shut up.)
Your Non-Reader friend will drag you into the land of the living for yoga, or lunch, or anything, ANYTHING but your WIP. They aren’t rude—they are happy you are doing what you love—but one thing is for certain: They aren’t reading what you’re writing.
And that’s more than okay.
Cue that Elton John song and someone hold up a baby lion, because we have come full circle. (You know, like the circle of life? Yeah. It’s a stretch, I know.)
While it is important to have a mentor, it is also important to BE a mentor.
Befriend a Newb. (You remember how intimidated you were by everyone who seemed to know what they were doing?) Once you start talking to someone just starting out on this crazy writing-dream, you will realize how much info you have collected in the back of that big ole brain of yours.
You shouldn’t have a mentee-friend only because it is the nice thing to do (but you should and it is) but also because you will get better by helping them get better. Sure, reading your mentee’s first attempt at a query letter will remind you how far you’ve come, but helping them to tighten their writing will also make you aware of your own wordiness.
Plus- you know you are dying to explain the finer points of pitching, (something your own mentor taught you).
About the Author
Em Shotwell is the author of Blackbird Summer (City Owl Press, 2016). She lives in South Louisiana with a husband who spoils her and two mini-superheroes who call her mom. Em think the most interesting characters are the ones who live on the sidelines, and that small towns often hide the biggest secrets. She is inspired by tall tales and local legends.
When she’s not writing about misfits and oddballs, Em enjoys spending time outdoors hiking, and debating Doctor Who facts with her obsessed ten-year-old.