more active role, not merely giving you a nudge, but helping to research those agents, share revision techniques, or exchange chapters for critique.
State your goal for your buddy, along with the deadline for achieving it. Large goals (i.e., finish the book) may need to be broken down into smaller steps. Set up a schedule and a format for checking in: every Monday, perhaps, you talk with your buddy and compare the goals you set for the week with what you achieved.
Do you need to set your sights higher, or is the process stressing you out and you need to dial back? For 100 -words, a daily check-in made sense. For a larger goal, or for busier lives, weekly or monthly reporting may be enough. Looking forward to sharing lunch with your buddy may incentivize your efforts.
The author trio of Jenna, Susan, and Deb exchanges a weekly email to share updates. They also video conference via Skype once a month—and meet once a year to set long-term goals and look at the big picture.
When they get the chance, they meet up at conferences they are attending, and even room together.
Lauren and Glynnis are both clearly self-motivated. Rather than share specific goals, they stay in touch via email daily and get together once a month for a Starbucks writing marathon. Says Lauren, “The days I spend writing with Glynnis are my most productive by far. We know better than to interrupt each other very much—mealtimes are for talking, and the rest of the time is for writing. This is not to say we don’t ever take a minute to help with a word choice or discuss a plot point that might be crucial at that moment, but we try to keep such intrusions to the bare minimum.” They rely on other partners for critique, but find that sharing writing time helps to keep them enthusiastic and on-target.
In addition to these sessions, they also make the time to take a cheap Mexican cruise together annually— where they never get off the boat! The ship provides ready meals, housekeeping and other services, so Lauren and Glynnis can spend all of their time writing—no chores or other responsibilities. Yes, they get some strange looks from fellow passengers, but the productivity is worth it.
Your goal buddy needs to be a writer you respect, whose opinion matters to you, and who you can trust to both pursue his or her goals and to hold the line to ensure you are working toward yours. You don’t want to disappoint your buddy, or yourself. It may help to plan for celebrations of the milestones that you reach.
Also, consider your buddy’s coaching style, as well as your own. Do you want a drill sergeant who will shout and throw things if you fall behind? Do you need nagging? Or would you rather have someone who pats your back for getting part way there, and gently encourages you to get further next time?
While Jackie and I used our challenge for the very specific need of getting out of a slump, other buddies forge a more lasting attachment to the process. Lauren describes herself as a procrastinator, and meeting with another writer helps her to maintain momentum in her work, especially when she’s under deadline pressure. Lauren and Glynnis were friends with an interest in romance writing before either one was published,
so it seemed natural to reach out to each other for support in their writing endeavors. Glynnis says, “I found out that the responsibility of meeting a goal buddy at a specific time and place for the specific purpose of writing kept me from getting distracted by busy work and losing my focus.” Jenna hooked up with Susan and Deb after all three were published. She says, “By having buddies, I know more quickly and more deeply what is happening in the marketplace. By sharing my experiences with them, I help them along or keep them from similar blunders.”
Are there downsides to the buddy relationship? As with any close friendship or professional relationship, there are likely to be “roommate” issues as you get to understand each other’s working and communication styles. E-mailed communication in particular lacks the nuance of knowing someone face-to-face and can be misinterpreted, so expect to have some adjustments to make when you first start out. This is another area where honesty is key: you need to be able to discuss how you are communicating and how to make changes so you can both get what you need from the relationship.
So if you’re facing a stage of your career that you find daunting, or if you’re simply looking to increase your productivity, maybe it’s time to reach out to a buddy, and help each other to succeed.
Fantasy author Elaine Isaak wonders if she can be goal buddies with her shiny new pseudonym—or if that would be taking things a bit too far. . .