Do you know someone who is committed to the craft of writing? Congratulations!
Maybe this writer is a relative, in which case you have destiny to thank. Or maybe you’ve befriended someone who has been bewitched by the notion that stacking words one atop another to build a story can be fun and profitable.
Either way, if you’ve spent any amount of time around a writer, you’ve probably already learned a few things about this admittedly strange species:
She might have told you how she came up with the idea for her story and why it’s awesome.
He probably dished on the details about his creative habits or writing schedule or preferred typeface.
Perhaps she shared her protagonist’s astrological sign.
(On second thought, maybe condolences are in order.)
Here’s the thing about writers. We spend a lot of time alone, populating a private world with imaginary friends—er, people—and thinking about topics reserved solely for storytellers and serial killers (e.g., how much midazolam would it take to knock out an average adult male?).
Eventually, we need to come up for air and share some of our “head happenings” with the wider world…or, at least, with our most-trusted loved ones. (That’s you.) And that means his success as a writer depends, at least in part, on you.
So whether they are still in the planning phase, frantically pounding out the first draft, or up to their elbows in edits, here are a handful of ways you can support any writers who cross your path:
1. Encourage them
In addition to a killer concept and mad composition skillz (i.e., the two sides to every story), thick skin, a strong spine, and enough patience to fill a Buddhist monastery, a writer needs encouragement to survive.
Oh sure, we might be able to sustain ourselves for stretches on ego alone, but eventually our confidence fizzles, and refueling is necessary. We need to be told that we aren’t wasting our time. These proverbial pats on the back can take the form of compliments. For instance, if an idea they share sounds cool, tell them. If nothing else, praise their dedication to what so often can feel like a hopeless pursuit.
Face-to-face chats are great, but don’t forget about Facebook and Twitter and wherever else in cyberspace your writer roams. Follow their author accounts. Like and share their posts. Comment on their blogs. If you engage them online, others might also!
(Yes, I actually wrote the word “cyberspace.” Apologies.)
2. Read their stories
Every writer needs readers. This is true even before a book or short story is published. Alpha readers, beta readers, pre-readers—whatever you want to call the role, you are a prime candidate for being the first eyes on a story.
You aren’t obligated to give a thorough appraisal of the piece, and no one should expect you to play the part of proofreader, but some feedback is appropriate. What did you like? What felt a bit off? Praise is always appreciated, and depending on your rapport, constructive criticism can be very helpful too—emphasis on “constructive.”
But never leave a writer hanging. You gotta give ’em something. And if you don’t make it to the end of the novel—or even the end of the first chapter—let the writer know. You can soften the blow by saying something like, “I don’t think I’m your target reader because this part didn’t work for me…”
3. Buy their books
Encouragement can come in a variety of forms, including financial support. In fact, one surefire way to show the writer in your life that you approve of their writing is by sponsoring them. Just ask my wife! (Insert rimshot here.)
Sure, there actually are donation/sponsorship websites like Patreon, but the most forthright way you can support your writer is by buying her book. Even if you still have an early draft on your e-reader from back when you served as a beta reader. And even if you don’t plan to read the thing cover to cover. Owning a copy of your writer’s book proves, definitively, that you give a damn.
It’s not just about the money, either (though that helps). The more sales a book receives on a site like Amazon.com, the better its ranking becomes; the higher the rank, the greater the visibility—and, therefore, the greater the opportunities for additional sales.
4. Review their books
Here’s where support starts to feel an awful lot like work: After you’ve read the book, write a review and post it on Amazon and as many other sites you can find that carry the book.
Actually, this isn’t as onerous as it sounds. No one expects you to write a college-essay style literary criticism piece that compares your writer’s story to Great Expectations. A few sentences will suffice, and if you have more to say, great! Be honest, but if there’s a lot you don’t like, maybe focus on the stuff that shined. Then copy and paste copiously around the web.
Why are book reviews important? People tend not to trust a book until it has 100 or so reviews. Sadly, it’s the quantity of book reviews—more so than the quality of what’s written in them—that prompts customers to put a book in their cart. Ten 5-star reviews just seem less trustworthy than dozens of reviews that average to 3.5 stars. Strange but true.
5. Spread the word
Whether self-published or traditionally published, any writer worth his carpal tunnel will spend time and money on promoting and marketing his book.
But a single writer can cover only so much ground. Even Jesus saw the value of sending His followers far and wide to share the Good News, thus increasing His geographical footprint. I’m not saying you have to quit your job and become a full-time missionary for your writer’s fiction, but if you come across folks who might like the novel, tell them about it.
Or, better yet, lend them a copy of the book.
Bottom line: Successful writers need readers, and as the friend or relative of a writer, you can make a significant impact on whether her attempt to “make it” as an author turns out to be a nightmare or a dream come true.
(Besides, haven’t you always wanted your name to appear on an acknowledgements page?)
Thank you David for saying these things. I agree with all of them and would myself feel further affirmed receiving more of them. But aren’t you preaching to the choir? After all, aren’t most of your readers here writer’s themselves? (Yours truly included.) We’ve shared each other’s frustrations over how difficult it is to engage other *writers* to do just what you suggest…how are we to do the same for all those friends and loved ones around us who are convinced that our endeavors *are* a complete waste of time? How are we to get them to, you know, *read* our work if they’re convinced even before picking up the book they won’t understand or like it? I believe it was jazz great Louis Armstrong who once posited “if people don’t know, you can’t tell ’em”. Because if those around us really knew what we were all about and cared to know the same, there is a good chance they’d be writers too. And I’m not sure how this message is to get to them, as the people who read this will likely be writers themselves. Oh, sure, I could just *tell* them the things you’ve written here, but I have already and been told too busy/not interested/not my speed etc. etc. etc.
Well, I suppose the writers who read this post could email the link to their friends and families. 🙂