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Proofreader, Only Not Really (Small update P.25)

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I think I somehow went from being an impromptu beta reader to an uncredited co-author of a fanfic.  :-\

A friend of mine asked me to help her with a story, and I said "Sure, no problem".  I didn't know she was going to constantly ask me, "What should happen next?" or "Who should check on so-and-so?" and the list goes on.  She has a good story idea, but I thought I was going to be proofreading things she's already typed up in between chats, not holding her hand sentence by sentence (I'm not exaggerating, either!) and coming up with the plot!  Frankly, I'm getting a bit exasperated.  She seems to wait until I'm online to write, because she "needs help".  I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying, "Why don't I just write it for you?"  I know that sounds snarky and mean, and I would never say it.

This friend is rather sensitive, and at the same time she's somewhat oblivious.  I've tried hinting that I don't know where things should go, and that it's up to her because it's her story, but she says "Okay" then repeats her questions a bit later.  Argh!  >:(  I thought I would be checking spelling and grammar, not coming up with the basic storyline, sans partial credit.  This isn't so much an etiquette situation as it is a dilemma on how to handle this in a way that is less likely to hurt her feelings.  I've got my own projects to write, not to mention family obligations.  Is there a nice, etiquette-approved way to be clear about my wishes in this matter?

Tell her you only have time to edit, not create.  As a sometime beta, I'm always clear that I can edit, not dream up plot.  If she asks why, tell her you don't have time to co-author a project.

Quit hinting around and just tell her outright that you can't help her anymore.

"Sorry friend, turns out I don't have as much free time as I thought so I won't be able to help you with your story after all. Good luck with it!"

Since she's sensitive and I assume, you want to remain friends, have you tried "I don't know, what should the character say next? I don't know, what do you think the plot should be?" and etc, etc. Just turn the questions back on her.

Can you ask her, "Why are you asking ME?  Isn't this YOUR story?"

Honestly, if she's THAT sensitive, she probably won't be able to even handle negative reviews or constructive criticism either.  Maybe ask her why she even wants to write this if she doesn't have a clear picture in her head of the story.  You mentioned other writing projects that you're you maybe mention those a lot, or does she know about them?  It just popped into my mind that it almost sounds like she's trying to keep up with you by trying to write her own, but she just doesn't have that burning idea or that drive to write a story, so she keeps coming to you for 'help' b/c she thinks it will make her better somehow.  She just doesn't realize that she isn't asking you for help so much as she's taking your ideas without really doing much herself.

Maybe tell her that you've noticed that she doesn't really seem to be set on her own plotline, and people who read her story will pick up on that (and will possibly leave less than complimentary reviews).  Suggest that she take a break and do a rough outline of her story, plot points, where she wants it to go, etc.  Or even write a synopsis of it, as if it was a 1 page book report for a class.  Then once she has more concrete ideas, she can start writing again, hopefully with a clearer direction, and you'll be happy to check grammar and punctuation on her finished product.


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