25 Ways For Writers To Help Other Writers

“Aww, gee shucks, mister, but you said December was the month of no mercy! Gosh and golly, talkin’ about how writers help other writers doesn’t sound too merciless, now does it?”

Oh, shut up, Beaver. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. This is the month of my boot shattering your penmonkey jaw and then I dance on your body and crush your chest with the weight of my blowhard advice.

But c’mon, son. It’s Christmas week. It’s time to spread a little holly jolly cheer.

Time to soak ourselves in Egg Nog and dance on tables, urinating nutmeggy love into one another’s eyes.

Um. … yeah. Let’s just move onto the list.

Here, then, are ways for writers to help other writers. Please to enjoy.

(And add your own in the comments!)

1. Buy Books

Writers don’t have to work very hard to get free books. It’s almost eerie — sometimes you swivel your office chair and there, on the floor behind you, is a book you never bought, a book not-yet-released, and the book whispers to you. Read me, it hisses. So, it’s important to make sure you spend some coin on books. Books by authors you know. Books by authors you don’t. Support individuals and support the ecosystem. I don’t need to tell you this — I don’t know a single writer who doesn’t buy a small freighter-load of new books every year — but, it’s worth mentioning just the same. Books, like puppies and wayward elves, need homes.

2. Tell Others To Buy The Books

For some fucking goofy-ass reason, people listen to writers. They think we know shit. (Uhh, and we totally do, heh-heh! Um. Yeah. *distracts you with a shiny tree ornament*) The assumption is that writers write books and so, writers are authorities on things like, say, books. So, when you read a good book, share the love. Doesn’t need to be #fridayreads, either — spread the gospel however you can, whenever you can.

3. Give Away Their Books

Someone not convinced that your authorial recommendations are made of gold? BOOM. FACE. Give them a book. Maybe that means giving them a book off your shelf by a writer you know and love. Maybe it means gifting them the book (and these days, gifting e-books is getting hella easy, so why not?). Sometimes it’s not about the book sale but the gentle pivoting of new readers toward favorite writers. Best way to do that is to lead by example: “Here is a book. You will read it. I have a gun.”

4. Offer To Read

We all have scripts and books and poetry and all manner of the written word that exists without reflection — we write it and we’ve no idea how it really is. It helps to have others take a look at it, see if we’re crazy, or geniuses, or crazy geniuses, or whether we’re just, y’know, pudding-brained dipshits. Sometimes it helps to have a fellow writer with all her writerly skills at the fore to come take a look inside the monster and see if and how the beast purrs — or if it’s just coughing up a mucusy hairball. *kack*

5. Sweet, Sweet Blurbage

I’ve recently gone out asking for blurbs, re: BLACKBIRDS, and boy howdy is it a shameless booty-shake — you’re saying, “Here, please carve time out of your life to read my novel of dubious distinction and then provide me with not just your thoughts but your thoughts distilled down into market-savvy nuggets of book-selling goodness.” Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t necessarily bad for the blurber — hell, I’ve had the chance to blurb three novels recently (Forbeck’s CARPATHIA, Blackmoore’s CITY OF THE LOST, Christopher’s EMPIRE STATE) that reminded me why I love books in the first place. So, as a writer, be nice and offer blurbs where possible. I mean, don’t blurb a novel you don’t like (or, worse, haven’t read), but if you’re into it — blurb it. And man, “blurb” is a strange word. I AM EMPEROR BLURB OF PLANET BLURB BEWARE MY BLURB ARMY! … no, I dunno. I really shouldn’t be allowed to write blog posts at 6:00AM on Sunday morning. Someone out there better send me some coffee. And fast.

6. Recommend Them To An Agent

Sure, some authors get agents the old-fashioned way — you write the book, you query, they want the manuscript, they read the manuscript, you send them cookies and bacon and a cigar box full of money and/or embarrassing pictures, and voila, you have an agent. But some agents only work on referrals, and so it behooves some authors — when they find a book-and-author combo they believe in — to recommend that author to an agent. Help forge those relationships.

7. Recommend Them To An Editor

Some writers work with (and require the services of) independent editors — once you find just such an editor, it’s like gold in your pocket. Share the wealth, then: tell fellow authors that if they need a good editor, then as it turns out you know just the one. The editor will thank you, too. With a puppy. It’s in all the editor-author contracts: each referral gets the author a new puppy. I’m sure I didn’t just dream that.

8. Get Them Work

We’ve all seen them camped out on bridges and beneath underpasses: a grungy rag-worn army of lost penmonkeys holding up signs, “WILL MAKE UP SHIT FOR FOOD,” or “I FOUGHT IN THE SELF-PUBLISHING WARS OF 2012 AND LOST BOTH EYES.” Here, then, is a “teach a man to fish” situation — if you have work to offer or work you’re passing on, it’s always nice to recommend another writer for that work.

9. Point Them Toward Opportunity

A variant of the above, if you know of a cool opportunity — a nifty anthology, a new lit-blog, a script contest, a chance to write the next Denny’s menu — then point them toward it. Share the wealth of possibility.

10. Buy Them A Drink

Whether we’re talking a cup of tea, coffee, Tito’s vodka or the tears of a grieving unicorn, writers will always always always appreciate a drink procured by a fellow penmonkey.

11. Buy Them A Meal

We’ve seen the commercials. The Sarah McLachlan music cues up. Aaaarrrms ooooof an Angel… and then we get a parade of images: hungry writers gnawing on manuscripts, caged, wild-eyed and apparently starving. And then you’re like, “Man, for a bunch of hungry guys they sure look a little fat.” Never mind that. We’ll appreciate a meal from time to time. If you’re having a good year, buy a meal. Cosmically and karmically, this should pass its way down: next time you’re having a bad year, a writer should appear and procure for you a free meal, too. That’s Penmonkey Law. That’s Holy Writ. Goddamnit.

12. Buy Them An Annual Health Care Plan

We writers probably have like, scoliosis or scurvy or syphilis  and could really use a bestselling author to be our patron saint and buy us a yearly health care plan. I kid, I kid — but here’s where I don’t kid. Sometimes writers do fall into bad times, and that means they do genuinely need a leg up with medical bills. It’s helpful when other writers come to their aid, maybe organizing a fund (small or large) to help cover some costs.

13. Be A Sounding Board

Sometimes writers just want to talk shit out — does this plot work? Is this a good move? Will you listen to my pitch? Do you know anything about this publisher or this studio? Have you seen my pants? Have you seen my shame? Did I leave my shame in the pocket of my pants? Writers uniquely understand other writers, and so it behooves writers to listen to other writers.

14. Advise Them (When They Want Advice)

Sometimes it isn’t about listening but actually about offering advice. Writers are uniquely placed to understand the troubles of other writers, so it makes sense to not, you know, ask advice from a plumber or that toothless homeless lady who keeps dead mice in a mason jar. Just the same, unsolicited advice usually isn’t appreciated. From anybody. For anybody. Ever. Trust me on this one.

15. Fuck It, Just Talk To Them

It’s not always about being a sounding board. Writers are lonely little penmonkeys — we do not travel in packs or tribes or swing from tree to tree with our hooting brethren. Our day-to-day necessitates we operate in relative isolation, and so sometimes we just want to talk. To someone. About anything. Writers talking to other writers means both writers get to emerge from solitary confinement for a little while. That’s referred to as a “win-win.” Or maybe an “ook-ook.” I dunno. Don’t look at me. I’m not wearing pants.

16. Give Them Space To Crash… At Your Blog

Just as some writers do book tours, they also do blog tours — hopping from blog to blog, exposing themselves (er, not like that, you filthy little scum-badger) to different audiences in order to hopefully gain some new fans and friends and thump their drum without spending tons of bank in the process. Offer up your blog for that purpose to writers you dig and respect if need be. Share the digital space when possible.

17. Give Them Space To Crash… On Your Couch

Like I said: some writers do book tours. Or maybe they need to visit a place to do research or meet with publishers or escape extradition for their crimes against humanity. Either way, it helps from time to time to offer up your couch or a dog-bed or a spider-infested root cellar. I’m not suggesting you run a halfway house or something: your home needn’t be an Author Hotel for Wayward Writers. But for friends and colleagues, you’ll help them save a little money and likely earn crash-space on their couch if ever needed.

18. Defend Them From Trolls

Writers are sometimes Internet magnets for those Human Canker Sores known as “trolls,” and it helps to have other writers rise to the defense (though, of course, one should always be careful not to feed the trolls, too). Mostly it’s just, stand tall for your penmonkey brethren.  You feel me?

19. Help Them Hide The Bodies

Sometimes an Internet flame war gets out of control and next thing you know, you’ve gone and killed a couple guys. We writers are inventive folks, and so it behooves us to bring the full creative weight of our critical thinking skills to bear on the task of helping our author buddies bury some motherfucking bodies. Uhh. I mean, this is all totally metaphorical. Totally. … Unrelated: anybody have a pickup truck?

20. If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say…

Hey, we all come across books we don’t like or writers we don’t respect. I’ve seen writers slag on Stephenie Meyer and Dan Brown — and, trust me, I’m not a fan of either writer. But you get little value out of bagging on other authors, even if they appear to be easy targets. If writers are accepted curators of literary culture, then it pays to point people toward the Good Stuff and instead happily ignore all the Crap Stuff. Do we even need to talk about Dan Brown or Stephenie Meyer? No, we probably don’t. Instead use your time to point readers toward awesome writers, instead. Be a fountain, not a drain.

21. Eschew Public Arguments

It’s best not to get on hot, sweaty writer-on-writer arguments. Nobody wins when writers fight. Except cats. I don’t comprehend the correlation, but whenever writers argue, cats gain more lives. True story!

22. Assist With Technological Challenges

It’s like that line from Ferris Bueller: “The Internet moves fast. If you don’t stop and learn about the newest coolest thing, you’ll be advertising your books on a Myspace page or a Geocities blog while you sink deep into the tar pits with all the other mighty reptiles.” I think that’s the quote. Point being, the ground is changing beneath the author’s feet these days — from social media to self-publishing, from HTML5 to transmedia, we’ve things we need to learn and those things will pile up into a wibbly-wobbly heap if it goes unattended. Other writers are equipped to share and teach about this heretical realm.

23. Share Your Penmonkey Experiences

At blogs like this I try to lay down the tracks of my penmonkey experiences — a trail of ink-soaked breadcrumbs not meant to demonstrate the One True Way but rather, to demonstrate one way through the dark forest of the authorial existence. I think it behooves writers to share that kind of information — to entertain, enlighten, and maybe to bring a little data to this otherwise rudderless life.

24. Kill In Their Name

Um. What? I didn’t say anything. I’m definitely not, uhh, asking you guys to kill in my name and drape the corpses upon altars made of my books. Totally don’t do that. That’d be aweso… awful.

25. Be A Pal, Pal

The world is a tough old bird. It’s not that writers have it uniquely terrible — hell, if you believe Forbes magazine, we’re some of the happiest job-having folks out there. Just the same, sometimes life throws an extra punch or two and leaves us with a bad review or a dead publishing deal or the other slings and arrows of everyday living. As such, it pays for writers to throw other writers a kind note — in short, just be a pal, pal. This writer thing we do benefits from the loose and uncertain bonds of community, but it’s on us to create and confirm that community — we must be self-driven to exit our caves and put on some pants (metaphorically, because, c’mon, fuck pants) and form bonds with other penmonkeys in the name of fellowship. If we want this thing we do to survive and thrive, we do it together, not separate.

* * *

Did you know that Chuck has a small army of writing-related e-books available? Each brined in a salty spice mix of profanity, inchoate rage, and liquor? Check ‘em out, won’t you?

Try: CONFESSIONS OF A FREELANCE PENMONKEY

$4.99 at Amazon (US), Amazon (UK), B&N, PDF

Or its sequel: REVENGE OF THE PENMONKEY

$2.99 at Amazon (US), Amazon (UK), B&N, PDF

And: 250 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT WRITING

$0.99 at Amazon (US), Amazon (UK), B&N, PDF

Or the newest: 500 WAYS TO BE A BETTER WRITER

$2.99 at Amazon (US), Amazon (UK), B&N, PDF

43 comments

  • I can’t do all of these (killing people would be a bit difficult to explain and then it adds to the hiding bodies thing. I mean come on man, it’s a vicious cycle), but I like the list.
    Now as to coffee and writing at 6 am: dude that’s when I’m at the steady paycheck job thingy that I have slinging as much caffeine as you could want. Find your way to Sundance and stop by my starbucks, I can make you a fine coffee.

  • 18. reminds me of the method political supporters at rallies or speeches are trained to do if a heckler or anti sign bearer shows. For the heckler, you start chanting a pro slogan and the others around you join you and drown out the other voice. For the sign guy, you hold yours up to block. Might sound unfair to the protester, but hey, if you support the candidate, that’s a way to minimize the damage without getting into a fight. Useful analogy for trolls. Don’t feed but drown them out…

  • Thanks for this whole list, especially #7. As a freelance book editor, working on long manuscripts–and a new mom–while I only take a few clients per month, I love a slow and steady stream of work that helps feed my family.

    #2 reminds me to ask your advice on a certain recurring problem: My friends keep asking me to read for free. Short stories, resumes, screenplays, and one person recently asked me to read 430 pages for free! He said he didn’t care if it took me a year to get back to him. But I don’t ask my friends for free services. It’s been a real thorny situation. Do you have any advice about this? PLEASE DON’T ASK A PROFESSIONAL EDITOR TO READ FOR FREE.

    • @Michelle –

      Heh. Well, I mean, if we’re talking close close CLOSE friends, I’d say that works as a free reading situation because that’s how friends are. But that’s a rare kind of friendship.

      Otherwise, I think the answer is plain enough: “I’m incredibly busy and I’ll let you know if I have time, but no promises.”

      – c.

  • I can barely afford my own healthcare, so I don’t think I’ll be providing anyone else with a plan, but I think one of my goals for 2012 will be to do the other 24 of these for the various writers I know.

    Okay, maybe I won’t kill in anybody’s name, either….but only maybe.

  • I totally agree with buying from fellow pen monkeys… that’s where all my books come from now, except the occasional paper book given to me as a gift.

    I’m leery of contests though, especially the ones asking for a buy in up front, the ones really worth something. They remind me too much of the local raffles, which are absolutely rigged.

    Prominent couples I know win all the large travel raffles (Egypt, China, etc.). The raffle organizers will even call them to remind them to buy a ticket so the “win” will appear legitimate. The people are nice enough, but addicted to cheap travel, so they take these “wins” with a smile. The car raffles are the same.

    If people are hard up, they should be cautious of contests/raffles where there’s money up front.

    And you’re a nice man (smile).

  • Having benefited from a few of these myself, particularly #7 (thanks, Ian!) and #10 (um, too many people to mention) I’m trying to pay it back (or is that forward? I can never get the hang of these American idioms). I love talking to other writers, online and at conventions; I review books, I’ve been giving lots of books away this year on my blog.

    Some people call it networking, but I call it having a good time :)

    You’re right about #5, though – being the blurbee rather than the blurber is mighty close to solicitation. Not easy when you’re a typical reserved Brit. Still I managed to get a few tasty ones in the end. Am rather dreading being asked to blurb, though, since I’m such a picky reader…

  • *snerk* Youse funny and I like your be-nice-tips. #7, #9 and #14 I particularly like and most of all, I’m looking forward to a chance of being able to do that for other people. I know how hard it is (hell yeah I know).
    Posts like this however, remind me I’m not by myself and sometimes that’s plenty (though #10, #13 and #25 wouldn’t go amiss). And I can do the same! :)

  • I pretty much had the same problem as Michelle. This random gal via Twitter liked my writing. Which was. Uh. Cool. The problem was that she’d ask me to edit her stuff. Which, for the most part, wouldn’t have been a problem if it weren’t for a few things.

    1) I’d spend twenty minutes of my time editing her stuff.

    2) She’d go “Uhuh.” and then proceed to ignore everything I pointed out. (Including the fact that she didn’t know the difference between there and their.)

    3) She asked me to do this constantly and it always ended up with the same old “Uhuh” or “That’s nice”.

    I’m not a professional. I don’t have a shiny degree. But goddamn, if you’re going to interrupt my writing time and then blatantly ignore the really, really obvious grammatical errors that I point out…yeah. Blergh. Please jump in a lake.

    Not to mention she’d IM me nonstop until I answered.

    Oh! She also wants to be a journalist but can’t take any form of criticism whatsoever.

    *gun to head*

    People my age make me want to kill cute, fluffy things when they pull crap like this.

  • Dammitt, Chuck, I need to stop reading your blog and start writing that bestseller. Uh, anyone available to proof read it/copy edit it/research it/write the damn thing for me? For free? ;-)

  • @Quinn

    I know that rough situation all too well. It’s how I spent my early twenties, when my friends and co-workers found out I could write and edit. Initially, they offered me exposure, saying that it would be good to get my name out there…which is was, but along with the exposure came the “But you do it for them for free/nearly not-worth-your-time, so you’ll do it that way for me, right?”

    And that’s how I spent the first decade of my professional life grossly undercharging and thinking I shouldn’t earn money doing what I love.

    I cannot stress enough that you have to take those things (with the toes) at the end of your legs and put them both down and make that line in the sand –> “This is my love and my craft and my time. It’s worth something to me.”

  • This article made me a little bit sad. I mean, sure I live in a small town and it’s kind of isolating being the only writer of my genre in… in many, many miles. Oh wait, this is my point. There is no bed/tea/beer/recommending moments going on in Clara-land. Don’t get me wrong, I found your list very enjoyable.

    “Whether we’re talking a cup of tea, coffee, Tito’s vodka or the tears of a grieving unicorn, writers will always always always appreciate a drink procured by a fellow penmonkey.”

    Was particularly hilarious.

    So cyberspace isn’t the best place to meet fellow writers, perhaps because of the inability to exchange fluids (like coffees!!!). In my experience, asking for feedback paves the way for wankers.

    Fear not though, I WILL PREVAIL! (and your inspiring words help)

  • Ooo, I’ll be helpful to my fellow writers!

    Hey Chuck, I live in Arizona. Miles of big, open, unexplored desert…if you need a place for that pickup truck to go. Just saying. ;)

  • @Quinn — Ah yes. I would like to write about those types of writers. They ask for advice not to get better, but just for affirmation and acknowledgment of what they do. They just want someone to look at it as they jump up and down, “LOOK AT WHAT I DID!!!” I think all writers starting out go through this stage and after a while they realize they gotta swallow some pride and accept they gotta actually do some work if they want to work at this thing.

    I want to do all of these things! Okay, no writers I know of live near me and I doubt no writers would want to stay at my place or write at my blog, but I think we can all be a bit more generous to the other members of our community.

  • All right then, I put my “I like to support other writers” money (a teeny little of it for now *haw*) where my vodka-swilling mouth is and bought one of your books.

    Now I’m feeling all jolly and grin-ny.

  • Yer a maniac, Wendig and don’t we love ya for it. We’re all yearning to get sucked into a vortex. We never allow ourselves to be crazy enough to get into trouble. Zorba said, “Life is trouble! etc”. That’s my advice, get sucked into a vortex.

  • I just wandered in from Kathleen Doyle’s blog and found this pretty cool list. As it turns out, I’m kind of new to this wonderful writing community and I have discovered writers to be the most helpful group of people I’ve come across. What other job can you think of where you can create new universes, throw ex-wives out of helicopters, leave clues to send the authorities to her new boyfriend’s house, and have an entire community help you get it right?

Speak Your Mind, Word-Nerds