Writing Friends Don’t Let Writing Friends [You Fill in the Blank]

Yesterday Kathryn Magendie recounted a tale on Facebook about her near-miss with a two-ply tail upon leaving the restroom. Is there any among us who haven’t had those experiences? The skirt tucked into hose or underwear? The graffitied face that came from applying mascara and getting distracted before it dried? The self-unbuttoning blouse?

I don’t know about you, but while mortified to have my faux pas pointed out, I’ve always been grateful to the strangers or friends who save me from myself. 

That got me to thinking about writerly friendship, and how lucky I’ve been. Once of the best things about blogging, in fact, is discovering a world of former-strangers who’ll — kindly — say to me, did you know you misspelled that author’s name? Did you know your blog format’s borked in my browser? And those twenty animated smilies you have in your sidebar? Um…cheesey with a capital pee-ewww.

So two questions for you?

1. Any big whoopsies you’ve been saved from by others in your writing life? (If you want to name names, please do!)

2. Is there someone you know you should be saying something to, but are avoiding? If so, why?

Image from Motifake

13 thoughts on “Writing Friends Don’t Let Writing Friends [You Fill in the Blank]

  1. Gouda writer friends don’t let each other write cheesy remarks. Brie a friend and keep the writing sharp, making sure it doesn’t grate on anyones nerves. I cheddar roll along now before I cheese off anyone else. 🙂

  2. Colleen Gleason gave my first ever query letter a read and said, “I hate to break it to you, but nobody is going to take a 200,000 word novel. They aren’t even looking at the rest of this.” OUCH but SO helpful!

    Usually, though, I find those OHGAWDIDIDN’T moments come when I’m alone and hit send and then REALLY wish i could call it back…

  3. There have been more, I can be sure of that, but three comments stick in my mind and have influenced my writing in one way or another — which is why writers should Listen even when they are at first insulted/hurt/thinking “what? nuh uh!” … and sometimes look deeper into the comment for what we need to create better prose (we should never stop learning):

    1) Years ago, when I first began writing again after a LOONNNNG 20+ year hiatus, a friend read a short story of mine I was fiddling with and she said, “I don’t really like stuff with too many adjectives…but that’s just me.” A light bulb went off – now this seems so elementary, so “kindergarten writing one oh one” but at the time I had no idea, had read no books, had no classes or writing groups -nothing but high school writing classes long gone years back. It changed my writing on a dime … I mean immediately I “SAW” what she said – I thought I was writing how I was “supposed” to write instead of how my instincts – turning point.

    2) I took a writing fiction class at LSU some years back (in my 40’s) and while passing around that same story above (poor story -it’s still in my files – like a little lesson book) – one of the male students, a wonderful poet I remember, said, “This dialogue – No one talks this way!” LIGHTBULB moment again – duh! He was right – who talks like I had them talking? Dialogue had been my nemises; I hated it; didn’t get it – but when he said that, lightbulb went off and after that my dialogue began changing, and now it’s one of my strong points.

    Those were things that happened a while back , but a recent comment changed my Sweetie novel into something so much better that I’m so very glad my brother told me what my mother said (when she was too nice to say it to me) – Mom read an early manuscript because she said she liked to read my stuff early sometimes and was curious about Sweetie. It wasn’t until I’d already sent the manuscript to my editor to review that my brother innocently told me what Mother said, “The first part’s a little slow…” LIGHTBULB MOMENT! It WAS slow and I’d known it – I’d been IGNORING it – I’d be hoping it’d all work out – I’d been dancing around it. FOlks, if YOU as the writer are thinking something and trying to dance around it – DON’T! For if YOU notice it, as the writer, your readers will notice it 100 fold more. That comment changed the SWEETIE novel into what it is now and I just cringe when I think it could have been the other way.

    Those are three long-winded ways of saying “WRiters, listen! Pay attention to those little comments. Look deeper into the comments for answers. Pay attention to your gut. Don’t write what you think you should be writing but what is your truth. And Et cetera!”

    Now as for something I should tell another writer . . . I’d tell Stephen King to stop thinking he has to write 1000 page books when half as much would have been even better. He’s a master of character development and when too many words and scenes and words get in the way, I lose his wonderful characters and begin to Skim – Skimming is bad. Oh well, he doesn’t need my puny advice anyway *laugh*

  4. Kat, that is SO weird, because I stopped writing for 20+ years too. I wrote in my early 20s, then family took over for many years! Several years ago, the college where I work offered some online writing courses, so on a lark, I took a couple of them. They really helped me focus on story and plot, two of my weak spots. However, it wasn’t until I joined OWW (Online Writing Workshop) that I had several different people point out issues with my writing (the same ones you talked about–too many adjectives, slow starts, etc.).

    This time around, instead of Teresa-the-know-it-all sounding out the cry of MY ART, I listened to them, and they helped me craft Miserere. It was funny too, because I was just getting ready to send the novel out on submission to agents when those good people showed me I had a LOT more work to do. I ended up re-writing the thing and I swore I wouldn’t proceed without their valuable help again. ;-D

  5. I won a critique from Anna Campbell in Brenda Novak’s auction awhile back. Instead of sending her something polished, I asked if she would mind looking at my very raw NaNoWriMo story. It had a TON of problems – it was NaNo, after all – but I thought there was something salvageable there. I just wasn’t sure where to begin. I’d written it chronologically and it jumped all over the place. I know the rule is “start where the story begins,” but the story started in the past so I was stumped.

    Anna VERY kindly agreed to do this, and she provided some really excellent advice without making me feel like a complete idiot. She is a goddess, and I will owe her eternally for her kindness and practical help!

    Are we only talking about the embarrassing moments? Because if we’re adding encouragement and support into the mix – the people who have pulled us up when we fall into the pits of Imposter Syndrome despair – I’ll have to add a lot more.

    So many people have critiqued my stories and given me the hard truth I needed. That includes you, m’ dear, but also Keri Stevens, Rosie Murphy and other friends in the Ohio Valley RWA chapter (Mary, Sienna, Carey, Jenn…), plus Jennifer Tanner, the Cherry Tarts and Pen & Cherries. You all ROCK!!!

  6. I have a writing friend who saved me from a few bloggy mistakes. Writing “accept” instead of “except” was my most recent mess-up (and, still makes me cringe and feel slightly woozy with shame). I often see typos on other writing blogs, but only speak up (via DM) if we’ve been communicating for some time.

    I think we all “get by with a little help from our friends”…lalala 🙂

  7. Guys, so many great comments here. Thank you! I stayed off the Internet as much as possible this weekend, so I’m late with my replies.

    Kat: It’s so true that those words which most needle often save us from major embarrassment or rejection later, if we heed them. Lady, your dialogue rocks! Confession time, though: I haven’t yet read Stephen King’s fiction. I’m too suggestible.

    T, I should check out this OWW, if only to know how it works. You’ve mentioned them several times and always had great things to say.

    Diana, I always say a good friend is a sniffing friend. 😉 (Teasing. I love how you said that with such humor and economy. 🙂 )

    Becke, I don’t know Anna Campbell, really, but everything I’ve seen of her on FB would indicate that’s her personality: open, generous, and honest. Really, when you combine that with skill, that’s pretty much the ideal critiquer for me.

    Amanda, I’m blurry-eyed with fatigue and just hit “publish” on a blog post with several typos. Since WordPress is so dang fast at dissemination, a bunch of people are probably glaring at their spammed inboxes at present. Doh. In other words, I feel your pain. Also, the people that take the time to correct a person OFF screen are heroes, IMHO. Glad you have yours. 🙂

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