The Best Way to Lose a Friend is to Read Her Manuscript

Sometimes in life things happen to you that are just so odd or unexpected that they can't be explained. One of these things happened to me recently, and I'm still not sure if I handled it correctly, although I'm not sure there was any other way to handle it.

Please remember that I'm a writer, and occasionally we encounter some weird stuff, especially from non-writers who think we're kind of nuts. That I can understand and expect, but getting a rebuff from a fellow author--a budding author, actually--threw me off. Here's what happened:

One of my friends who's always wanted to be a writer finally finished her first manuscript. All aglow with accomplishment, she e-mailed me and asked me to read it and give my opinion. Now, I cringe at this because she's my friend and I have no idea what shape her manuscript is in. What if she wrote it in crayon and it sucks?. Also, I know from very bitter experience that anything I say can and will be used against me no matter how positive my constructive feedback is. The minute that request to read a friend's manuscript pops up in your e-mail, everything changes. Friendships, like patience, are tested.

Against my better judgment, I said that I would read my friend's story and give feedback. What was I supposed to do? She'd been working on it for over a year, and I'd been encouraging her to follow her passion for writing the whole time. No problem with that, as people do it all the time. However, when a published author offers feedback to an unpublished author, it can be either a great experience or it can become extremely awkward. And so for us, awkward it was.

I read my friend's manuscript expecting it to have all the hallmarks of an amateur writer, or at least some of them. Then I'd have to tell her she needed to revise and re-write, which might be a little uncomfortable when I know what she'd like to hear is that it's the greatest book ever.

I finish the book, and it turns out it's freakin' awesome. I mean, it's something I would definitely have paid money for, and I'm glad I got the chance to read it. She's a natural writer, and her story was great. Yeah, it had a few places that needed some work, but not much. I couldn't believe how well done this book was.

So she invites me to lunch to pay me back for reading her book, and I gush about how great it is. I mean, I love this book, and I'm thrilled to not have to tell her it stinks on every level. And what happens? She gets ticked off. Totally and completely angry at the fact that I love her book. She thinks that I'm lying. Her low writer self-esteem apparently kicked into overdrive and she thought I was just trying to make her feel good about herself. She even accused me of not really reading her book closely, or I would have found major problems. Wait...what?

Sadly, she's still not talking to me, and I'm still chastising myself for agreeing to read her book, but perhaps time heals all wounds.
And that's how my wildly bizarre weekend went. What about yours? Read any good books lately? I'd love to know. :)

1 comment:

Eileen said...

Thanks for sharing. It's kind of funny. But I can relate to your writer. How can it be awesome when there must be a zillion things she could do to improve. I had someone look at my manuscript and we didn't get even through the first two paragraphs when I was learning how my sentences should written. Boy, I haven't dared ask anyone else. I need mucho help with basic things like POV, not using that, no 'sounds or taste' in my description. It was very informative. So maybe a 'friend' reader is damned if they do and damned if they don't.