Wednesday, February 15, 2023

writing, writing for kids, mentoring
                                                                                                                                              Photo: John Schnobrich


It's not easy helping friends with their writing.  Don't get me wrong.  I love supporting picture book writers.  But the ugly truth is, it can be trying.  Some friends ask too much of me.  It's getting to the point where I'm considering setting some ground rules.

I don't mind waiving my fees for my friends.  But sometimes, they may want me to line edit a chapter book.  They may want to meet multiple times and get feedback with every new draft.  They may even want me to help sell their self-published books.  

One friend asks me to take a look at her work and then gripes when I point out parts of her beloved stories that need attention.  She doesn't want to hear the truth about her work.  It's her nature to resist revision.  Though she'll make some slight changes, she really would like me to fall in love with the first draft.    

Another friend wants me to give him feedback on his work, but unlike my female friend, he never really listens to my advice and never makes a single change, even if there are grammar or formatting problems.  Ideally, he would like to find a publisher for his children's stories, but he always decides to self-publish his work.  Always.  He only wants my approval and for me to boost his confidence.    

These two examples are rare.  Most of the time, my writer friends don't abuse our friendship. They don't get frustrated and they are open to making revisions.  They make consulting fun and rewarding.

For instance, several years ago a friend needed help with a manuscript he planned to submit to a children's magazine.  I was happy to help him, and in the end, the piece got published in Highlights.  He sent me a copy and I found his story even retained some of my ideas.  Eventually he learned the ropes.  Now, he has been published by Highlights multiple times.  I'm thrilled that my advice has made a difference in his writing career.  

But there will always be a few friends who make my job challenging.  They may get defensive or disregard the suggestions.  Their attitudes frustrate me, and helping them feels like a waste of my time.  

Things have got to change when it comes to helping my friends.  We need to have a conversation.  I need to learn what it is they want from me and then they need to learn how I can help them.  So, here are some of the guidelines I'm thinking about:

  • discuss the goals for the consultation
  • limit appointments to an hour, whether on the phone or in person 
  • offer to look at the first draft, but charge for subsequent help  

I put thought and effort into reviewing manuscripts, and I don't expect all of my suggestions to be used.  But if friends contact me for help on a picture book, I expect that they do some editing and to do so without grumbling about it.  They will need to be considerate and respectful of my time.  I've got to put my foot down.  Would you agree it's time to clue-in my friends?  Would you agree it's time to set a few ground rules?    

 ✌ and