Sunday, 26 April 2015

What Friends Are For

by Jennifer Young

Friends. Don’tcha just love ‘em? Well, of course you do. That’s why they’re your friends.

Many years ago a friend of mine told me of a conversation she’d had with her writing tutor. On hearing that the friend’s husband was also a writer, the tutor cautioned her against seeking his advice. “He won’t be honest with you. Writers never are. They’re jealous.”

I thought at the time that this was unfair. (Well, all right. I thought at the time that this was downright outrageous.) I have many writing friends — in fact, I suspect most of my friends are either writers or aspiring writers, which some people may find rather sad. And without those friends I wouldn’t be the writer I am, or the person I am.

There has long been a perception around that writers are obsessive about their precious turn of phrase and resentful of the success of others, as if there’s a limited number of books that can be published or words that can be written, of characters that can be produced and plots that can be twisted. She has a book published - dammit. That’s one less slot for me.

Well, no.

In all my time I’ve never found a fellow writer who wasn’t interested and supportive. Admittedly some have been less supportive than others but maybe they had other reasons for that. But I’ve never met a writer who set out to undermine or obstruct another. I’ve come across this kind of behaviour elsewhere but never among the fellowship of scribblers. 

Writers, in my experience, seek out other writers. They ask them for advice, the give advice in return. They buy one another’s books, they read one another’s books, they promote one another’s books. And while I can’t rule out that some may do it in the hope of getting the same support back when they need it, I honestly believe that they take pleasure in one another’s success.

That’s why I’m going to talk about another author. Years ago I sat at school with a friend. We passed notes under the desk, as everyone did, but our notes were alternative paragraphs in a story, a collaborative, rambling effort which went on for years and which we called ‘The Epic’. I still have some of it.

Needless to say we both wanted to be writers.

This week my friend had her first book published and I’m as proud as if it was my own. So I thought I’d put my money where my mouth is and support a debut novelist. Stand up Emily Ross and take a bow. Emily’s debut, A Necessary Risk, a historical novel set in mediaeval Wales, is up and out there, ready for you to read. Take a look…


  1. Congratulations to your friend Emily and her debut novel. I wish her every success.
    You are right that writers are very supportive of each other.

  2. Well, I know I wouldn't be here on this blog if it weren't for other writers. Very many of them have been good to me. :)

    1. I think we can all say the same, Jennifer.

  3. Brilliant Jennifer. A blog completely after my own heart. I think the Romantic Novelists' Association has shown over and over again that writers can and do support each other, both with the New Writers Scheme and countless other support.

    And snap with the long-term aspiring writer friend also being published. Zana Bell, who I went to uni with in Cape Town and then shared a flat with in London, is now published by Choc Lit :)

    Many congratulations to Emily.

  4. Well done to Zana! I'll keep an eye out for her book. :)

  5. You're right, Jennifer. I've had support from other writers, and also, Gill, from the RNA. The important thing to remember is that someone else's writing success takes nothing away from you. It's not like a job interview where there's one post and several applicants.

    Best of luck to Emily and Zana!

  6. Exactly, Joan. The analogy I always have in my mind is that it isn't like a team - it isn't as if someone will be picked instead of you, so why not help them?

  7. Spot on with your observations, Jennifer. I've found most writers to be extremely supportive and friendly, always ready to listen and give ideas about plot problems, characters, elevator pitches, blurbs etc etc. And yes, we congregate. I think we understand each other. After all, we are all a bit barmy ... or is it just me (she says nervously).

  8. Great post, Jennifer, and I completely agree with it. All the best to Emily with her début novel!

  9. Really good post....loved it. A mixed bag for me..... I've had some not nice experiences from jealous fellow-authors, but on the other hand some truly wonderful, consistent, support from others. I choose to chink glasses with the latter.... :)