The Importance of a Sounding Board


This post is by Joe Stephens



I have a good friend who helps me with my writing. I’m sure I’ve mentioned her before. Here name is Maria, but I call her Pepper, short for Pepper Potts, who starts out as Tony Stark’s personal assistant in the Iron Man comics and movies. They eventually become a couple. The resemblance ends long before that for us. She’s happily married to another of my best friends and is more like a much younger sister than anything else. But that’s not the story I want to tell. The story I want to tell is how, among other great ways in which Pepper supports my writing, she serves as my sounding board.

This example perfectly illustrates what I’m trying to say. Earlier this week I had finished the first third of the rough draft of my work in progress and was contemplating where exactly to go from there. I had a rough idea of the general arc of the story. Frankly, I knew who the bad guy wasn’t, but I hadn’t completely decided who the killer actually was. And I

Pepper with hubby Jonathan

was considering whether to insert a particular section that I wasn’t sure about. It could be a valuable insight into the main characters or it could be a rabbit hole down which the plot could fall, never to be seen again. What to do?


Easy. Text Pepper. I told her about my concerns. I asked her what she thought. After I posed the initial question, I typed out how I thought the section might work if I handled it correctly and how it could even be the genesis for a spinoff book series. But before I could hit send, I received a text from her, and guess what it said. Almost word for word, she told me the exact same thing I had just typed.

Of all the people on the planet, including me, she probably knows my writing and my characters better than anyone else. She reads all my chapters as I write them and has read all my books over and over. We have both talked of how Harry and Dee are like a real couple we both know. So if she and I arrive at the same conclusion about where the story should go and how I should handle a particular scene, I feel completely confident that it’s right.

One of my most treasured possessions is this hat that I got from Pepper and Jonathan for my birthday.

I can’t express just how important it is to my writing to have someone like this to share it with. She keeps me going when I am struggling. She points me in the right direction when I feel lost. She reminds me that there are actually people out there who like and value my writing, and even if she’s the only one, that’s enough.

If you’re a writer, do you have someone in your life who serves this purpose for you? Feel free to brag on that person here.





Joe Stephens is a teacher at Parkersburg High School. He is also the author of Harsh Prey, Kisses and Lies, and the recently released In the Shadow, all of which are available in paperback and Kindle formats. The paperback may be purchased from Createspace, Amazon, and most online booksellers. In the real world, you may purchase from J & M Used Book Store in Parkersburg and from the author’s trunk.

ITS Cover ArtCheck out his newest book on Amazon

kindle cover

Take a look at Harsh Prey on Amazon 

Kisses and Lies Cover Michele croppedTake a look at Kisses and Lies on Amazon

Join Joe on Facebook 

Check out joe’s website.


16 thoughts on “The Importance of a Sounding Board

  1. What a wonderful gift you have been given. I still tend to write alone without feedback. But the improv writing group almost does the same thing. We don’t allow any critique, but hearing the words outloud does help. Doris

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, she is a gift. You are so lucky to have someone to give you feedback on your WIPs. I used a couple of online friends I have gained through use of an online writing workshop, but it would be nice to have someone I could talk to face to face about a chapter in progress, etc. How’s the snow? Inches piling up?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Boy howdy, are they. It’s been snowing steadily for almost six hours. I shoveled the walk out to the mailbox and it was white again before I got back to the porch with the mail. I’d say we easily have 5 or six inches and it’s supposed to snow all night.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a gift Pepper is for you! And definitely an asset for a writer. I rely on my monthly critque group but really need to find someone like Pepper also. We really need that feedback I believe. Happy for you. And happy we aren’t getting the snow here right now. Hope you don’t get buried too badly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Everyone should have a Pepper, though I can’t imagine anyone being anywhere near as Peppery as my Pepper.

      As for the snow, it’s been snowing non-stop since about 12:30pm yesterday. Looks like we’ll have at least a few more hours of it. No idea how much we have, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it easily exceeds a foot.


  4. It sounds like you and Pepper are on the same page (I didn’t write that) where your writing is concerned–she understands your purpose, you communicate easily, and you trust her judgment. She’s a keeper.


  5. My local writer’s group, which includes our beloved Neva Bodin, serves as my sounding board. It’s wonderful to share works in progress, thoughts on people’s poetry, and laughter as well as food, all of which we do in our group! I don’t have a personal writing buddy as you do, Joe, but I always look forward to our writers group meetings and learning what others are working on and receive feedback on my own work. Having those people, those who listen and encourage, is certainly priceless! Stay warm and safe!!


  6. Sadly no, I don’t have anyone like your Pepper. I did have some different people Beta read two of my novels but they were at a completed stage before my official publisher editing stage. I’ve never shared on a chapter by chapter basis and think I’m too ‘pantser’ for that. As I get closer to completion of the first draft I’ve already made a lot of changes and think that would be too confusing for a ‘chapter’ reader. Pepper is definitely your treasure. (BTW- I’m reading ‘In the Shadow..around 70% right now and I’m definitely hooked. 🙂 )


  7. You’re very lucky to have someone as in tune with your writing as Pepper. I rely heavily on my weekly writer group. Although it’d be good to have someone at your fingertips like Pepper (or in person) to run things by quickly or at a moment’s notice. I, like Nancy, tend to prefer to give my writer group a completed story rather than bit by bit because I end up changing so much along the way (or sometimes once it’s almost done!) that it can get confusing.


  8. Great post Joe. If we don’t have people whose opinions we value helping us bring a book to fruition, who do we expect to read it? Our “sounding board” can be anyone we trust to give us good advice, but it could change the direction of our book, so we need to totally trust that person to give us good advice. You are so fortunate! Not only is your “sounding board” a friend, but she’s an awesome fact-checker as well!


  9. Sounding boards are very important in our line of work. They not only offer insight they spot typos and places where details are lacking. My current WIP is being read over by someone who never experienced life at that time. She is offering invaluable insight into what seems foreign to someone born after that time period.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s