Always difficult to address this question. I would have once said, “Tell the truth.” Morals, ethics, integrity, and that shit. But I’ve since thought, this is a Schrodinger situation, innit? It’s a thought experiment that their writing is bad today but it could be better next week, next month, next year. Or bad writing may become the new vogue. I’d rather keep the friendship. I don’t know how the the writing will be when tomorrow is opened.
So you have this friend. You value them enough to respect them and avoid hurting their feelings as much as possible.
You and this friend continuously bond over the fact that you’re both writers. It’s not the primary reason you get along, but it’s nice to have someone to “talk about writing” with, and a solid reminder that you aren’t the only one struggling to put ideas into words and make those words accessible to the masses.
You’ve gotten to the point in your “writing relationship” where you both are willing to swap prose knowing you’re good enough friends that each will receive honest feedback without resentment — a great place to be, as far as writing relationships go.
There’s just one problem.
When your friend emails you a piece of their manuscript-in-progress, you sit down, open it up, get a few sentences in and realize …
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