Writing is often considered a solitary task. We hear “writer” and think of the lonely author, pale and skinny in their attic garret, candle burning low, fingers stained with ink (or, Jo in Little Women whenever she starts writing a book). Some people do like the solitary aspect of it, and find that going away from it all to work on writing is peaceful… unless you end up like the guy in The Shining. But in reality, most writers really need other writers. We need eyes that haven’t stared at the same paragraphs and pages for hours on end. We need feedback about what’s not working… and feedback about what is. We need other people who struggle the same way we do, who understand it, who can support us… and whom we can support. In short, we need friends.
The other night I was privileged to have the opportunity to have a buddy writing session with Yolandie Horak, author of The Fall of the Mantle series. Her first two books, A Study of Ash and Smoke and A Trial of Sparks and Kindling are both really well crafted with memorable characters and intricate plots. We’re both fans of the Dragon Age series, and both members of Skolion; we’ve chatted quite a bit via Messenger, and we’ve both had a lot going on lately, so we thought, “why not?”
There is absolutely no answer to that question! It was a fantastic night. Once I got my tech issues sorted with my headset (I usually use my headset so there’s no background noise from my space heater or my obscenely loud typing!), we were off and running! Yolandie is a wonderful individual, and we were able to bounce from discussing writing, to art, to fandom, to Dragon Age, back to writing, back to Dragon Age. We discussed the rough parts we were having with our current works in progress. We chatted about sources of inspiration and favorite characters, and even our favorite characters in our own work. We confessed our anxieties about setting it up in the first place!
I think one of the best parts was speaking with someone so like-minded about so much, and feeling at ease discussing my writing and writing journey. She and other Skolion writers and friends have blazed the trail ahead, so I’m not walking alone. I could have been intimidated knowing I was about to spend some time chatting with a published author whose work I admire, but Yolandie made it super easy, and at the end, I think we both had accomplished something we were trying to work on. She got some work done on a chapter she wanted to finish, and I got a short story set in the Ungifted world completed (just the first draft. Stay tuned for more info on that). And when I had to turn in for the night, we planned to do it again. I’m so excited!
If you’re thinking of getting down some words with friends, here are some recommendations:
- Don’t be nervous! If you and the other writer are agreeing to have an online writing session, chances are good that you both want to do it, so don’t be super nervous.
- Discuss and agree upon time and platform (Zoom, Meet, Skype, etc).
- You can chat about how you want it to go ahead of time, or when you start the session. Will it be just silent writing, with accountability on the other end? Or are you open to conversation? Yolandie and I just sort of went for it, and were both relatively relaxed enough to let things happen organically. Once we got over the initial anxiety!
- If you’re not sure how to have things go, try sprints! Set an agreed upon time, then just write as much as you can as fast as you can until it’s over.
- Consider what else you may have going on. I definitely needed to wait until Smol Human was asleep because he’s SO curious and loves seeing himself on camera!
Our writing session the other night provided me with encouragement and accountability, plus it was just really nice to speak with someone beyond typing over Messenger! Yolandie was so gracious and really encouraging, and I felt really energized about my work after we spoke. Looking forward to doing it again!