Are you ready for an Editor?

You’ve done everything for your story.  Your rough draft has been spell checked, sent to beta readers, edited by you, and spell checked again (and again, and … you get it).  Is it ready for an editor?  Do you need to use a professional editor?  How much will it cost?

On my blog, I’ve got interviews with editors who can tell you what they do and more.  Some editors charge by the word and some by the hour.  Here is one organization’s suggested fees –  I’m sure other organizations have something similar. 

Is your manuscript ready for an editor?  If you can’t take it any further, yes.  If you’ve edited it to the point where you know it isn’t going to get any better with you looking at it.  It’s time to seek outside help. 

Do you need to use a professional editor?  That is up to you.  Only you can answer this question.  Are you a grammar and punctuation geek?  Do you know the rules and follow them?  Do you know when you can break them without making it harder for the reader to understand what’s being said?  If you don’t or aren’t, get an editor. 

One thing I recommend when choosing an editor is to ask if they will do a sample.  If they do, it helps you to see their techniques and skill.  You don’t want to send someone a couple hundred bucks and find out they miss more than you did.  If you are trying out several editors, send them the same sample and see who gives you the best results. 

There are all sorts of ways to find an editor.  The question becomes is the editor you find going to work well with you?  With most online writer’s groups, all you have to do is say you’re looking for an editor and you get a dozen (or more) people offering suggestions. 

Professional editor organizations are out there as well.  Again Google is your friend here – use it to find a variety and then check out the organizations to see if they offer a list of editors.  You want one which has been in existence for a period of time and offers a feature to search their members or in some way find someone who’s interested in doing work for you. 

I’ve done editing and do a few jobs (no this is not a plug to do your editing).  It’s time consuming, difficult and complicated.  Editors are people – a good one will catch most of your issues but you need to be realistic. They will miss things. 

When working with an editor, here are a couple things you should know:

  • No book is without error whether traditionally published or self-published there are always errors in there.
  • Editors – even freelance ones – need to pay their bills, pay them for the work they do.  Be clear about your expectations and your budget.  Talk to them about their fees – don’t expect a discount.
  • Editors – even freelance ones – are not going to be available 24/7 as soon as you email or text them.  They do have other clients and a life. 

Obviously you don’t want to be taken by a bad editor but if you use your due diligence you should be able to find a good editor to work with.  Take the time to get to know your editor and the type of work they do.  Budget appropriately and pay promptly.  You’ll be on pins and needles while they edit but you should end up with a better product than you had before you sent it to a professional.

If you have a writing question you want answered or discussed, use the contact form to let me know.

What Genre?

One of my biggest mistakes when I wrote my first book was to write a manuscript longer than any publisher would take in that genre.  I didn’t even think to go look at what romance writers were producing.  I wanted to tell a good story.  If it was good enough, it wouldn’t matter if it wasn’t the word count the publishers wanted, right?   WRONG! 

Harlequin – probably the biggest publisher of romance novels has an array of categories but the one common thing to all categories – they have a specific word count they publish.  My novel – close to 150K – didn’t fit any of them because it was too long.  Try taking at least 50K out of a book.  It broke my heart to do it. 

There are other reasons to research your genre.  It might direct you to which POV you use – some genres are almost exclusively 1st person.  Others are never 1st person. 

Reading your genre also helps because it tells you what tropes are always used (and may need to be avoided or used but in a unique way). 

Google is your friend when it comes to this.  Look for organizations which feature your genre.  I know what you’re going to say – I’m bridging multiple genres.  Well good for you.  Look up all the genres you’re bridging.  If one of them is 50K and the other is 100K you may have to compromise somewhere in the middle. 

It’s about more than just the length your novel should be.  Researching the genre for your novel allows you to have information about who reads the genre, where they get information about the genre, and more.  This is really valuable marketing information. 

Other things to look at – what are the covers like; what is the sexual or violence content; or what are the chapter headings like. 

ParentingPatch [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

Go to the local library and look at all the books in your genre and take note.  What colors are used for covers?  Blue may be common – so do you want to use blue?  Or will using a different color make your book stand out? 

Look through the same genre on your favorite book buying site.  Look at prices, descriptions, and all the details. 

This sounds like a lot of work.  It is.  It can be a pain but if it ultimately helps you produce a competitive product, it’s worth it.  As you write more books you’ll have to do less research if you write in the same genre. 

Researching your genre may not feel like it’s sexy but it is a key step which feeds into all levels of writing.  It can help you avoid overused tropes for your story and determine how long your story should be.  Research will aid you in formulating a marketing plan – yes you should be thinking about marketing before your book is published.  It helps to inform you in who is likely to read your novel and how you can reach them.  Research is key in many aspects of your writing. 

Alpha or Beta

Critique is a part of writing.  You have to put your book out to get other people’s opinions.  It’s one of the hardest tasks because those people may come back and say hard things or worse indifferent things. 

It would be great if everyone LOVED your stories but the reality is they won’t.  Criticism is something you’re going to have to get a thick skin about.  It’s easy to justify and explain but if your readers aren’t getting it – it isn’t written well enough. 

The best advice I ever got was to not say anything (or hopefully you’re doing it by email) and read it, get annoyed, and then go back later and consider all they say.  When I took a writing class where we had to submit a piece, everyone had to read it, and then during class discuss it.  The author of the piece had to silently sit there and take it.  Hardest damn thing ever.  However, it taught me to really listen. 

I’ve done critiques for people who provided a list of questions.  I hate them but I can see how they will help an author.  I like to read and just give my opinion but this author wanted these specific questions answered so I did.  You can ask questions like:

  1. Did the story hold your interest from the beginning?
  2. Did you relate to the main character(s)?
  3. Did the setting suit the story?  (or maybe genre specific questions)
  4. Did the story lag at any point?
  5. Were there parts of the story which annoyed you?
  6. Were there any time sequence issues?
  7. Were the characters / plot believable?
  8. Was the dialogue believable?
  9. Was there enough description?  Too much?
  10. Was the conflict believable?
  11. Did the ending satisfy you?
  12. Did you find yourself skimming?

You can always Google to find more questions but you can certainly expand on any of these.  These questions do help give specific feedback. 

One thing I don’t think should be asked is about spelling, grammar, or punctuation.  If they notice and comment, great but they aren’t your editor and you may or may not be confident in their editing skills.

Now there are sites (aren’t there always?) where you can go to get feedback.  Here’s an article which gives a list of sites where you can get feedback on your writing.

If you use one of these, make sure you read the fine print and they will actively work to prevent people from taking your work and either using it in its entirety or stealing parts of it.  This is one thing you need to be cautious about – plagiarism.  When you put your work in the hands of other people, you want to be able to trust them.  It would be nice to say – no one would take my stuff but please don’t be naïve.  Here’s an article about an author who did just that.

I have a small group of beta readers.  Three of them respond promptly and with a fair bit of reliability.  I get three separate opinions (often contradictory) but I use their input to shape how I edit and change my stories.  In discussing my stories with my beta readers, I’ve been able to brainstorm ideas on changes.  It’s made me a better writer by taking their input. These beta (or alpha or first) readers are invaluable if you trust them and are willing to listen to the critiques they give.

If you have a writing question you want answered or discussed, use the contact form to let me know.

Analysis is Good

With your rough draft done, the next steps are all sort of intermixed.  There are a number of steps you need to do before you even go to an editor.  I know you’re saying but isn’t that what I pay the editor to do?  Editors are expensive. The cleaner your manuscript the better. 


First steps for me are a spell check, search for commonly overused words (I have a list), and reading through.  These are big steps (mostly) that take time. 

First thing – do a spell check.  Take the time to look up the rules / errors your word processing file shows you.  FYI – the word processor is not always right. 

There are a bunch of websites which will help you analyze your writing – some for free and some cost.  Grammarly is the one most often discussed.  I’ve used it peripherally.  It seems acceptable though I think you need to have a good knowledge of grammar to know whether you should accept or reject the appropriate corrections.  It works very like MS Word’s spell / grammar check. 

Analyze My Writing is another site   You copy and paste your writing sample into their software and click on different buttons like basic text statistics, common words and phrases; readability; lexical density; passive voice; and cloze test.  The most useful of which is the passive voice.  I’ve not used this a lot but when I tried the common words and phrases it didn’t work. 

Slick Write is another such site  This one intrigues me.  I’ve played with it a little bit.  Across the top it has features; structure; quotes; vocabulary which all give analysis but along the side it has another set of tools all of which help you analyze your writing. 

Another option to look at is to find what words you use the most – frequency of words or phrases appear in your document.  Write Words out of the UK has a tool  You paste in your text and press a button and it tells you.  Now obviously words like the, a, and are going to be more frequent.  In general, you don’t want to use the same words to describe things.  Now if you have a character who has a catch phrase – like “Sweet potatoes” obviously you’ll take that into account. 

Once you have this analysis on your writing, you use it in editing to improve your writing.  Rarely do I catch the words I overuse when I’m writing my rough draft – it’s always during the editing phase. 

When I do my searches for overused words, I highlight them (I use Word and you can search and replace words with highlighted words) so when I do my paper edit I can reword (hopefully) to reduce the  number of times I use my list. 

For my first novel, I didn’t have that list of words.  In fact, I didn’t know any of this so my first novel could use a rewrite.  This is meant to give you a leg up to use a tool like those I talk about above (and there are MANY more) to help you produce a better book. 

I’ve been self-publishing for four years.  When I read my first books, I sort of cringe because my editing procedures were not as good or as well developed.  Even now, I’m looking at the tools above and thinking I should add in one or maybe two of these to see what the different sites catch.  It probably needs to be one of my steps I do habitually. 

The last step is a read through.  I have to have mine on paper.  I can do a read through on the computer but I find I don’t catch as much.  With it on paper, I take more time, catch more things, and rewrite more.  This is what works for me.  Maybe you read better on your phone or the computer.  Maybe you have to do a headstand… okay maybe not.  My point is you have to do what works for you.  Find out when you are most edit conscious and how you can catch those quirks you don’t like in your writing. 

If you have a writing question you want answered or discussed, use the contact form to let me know.

Fast or S l o w

Pacing – what is it and why is it important?  It’s how fast your scenes read.  I know you’re going to say – I can’t control how fast someone reads.  My response is – to some extent you can.  Passive / active voice play a part but so does sentence structure and length.  Here’s a good article on it with the typical 5 points to fix everything. Even though I’m not a fan of those types of articles, this one does give some good points.

Long sentences and longer words slow down your pace.  Here’s an example of what I mean:

            After Sam did stretches, she stepped onto the track and loped around getting into a rhythm. 

            After Sam stretched, she ran easily finding her rhythm.

The first sentence is sort of meandering and slows the pace down.  The second sentence is quicker. 

The same can be said for dialog.  Dialog makes a scene go fast.  So if you’re characters are talking and the scene is too quick, you can slow it down.  Sample:

            “We need to be careful,” she said.

            “I know,” he said.  “But we have to help Joey.”

            “He’s always in trouble,” she said.

            “This time is bad,” he said.

            “I don’t like it,” she said.

            “I know,” he said.

            “But you still want to help him,” she said.

Now that reads pretty quick.  Short sentences and little description means the scene is going to read fast.  Now if you want to slow it down you can make the sentences longer or you can add description.

            “We need to be careful,” she said putting a hand on his arm.  She gazed up into his dark eyes, saw the worry in his frown.

            “I know,” he said patting her hand. He looked out the window as he considered her words.  “But we have to help Joey.”

            “It’s Joey, you know he’s always in trouble,” she said. Moving to the closet to grab their jackets. 

            “I know he is but this time, I think, it’s bad,” he said taking his brown jacket and slinging it around his wide shoulders.   

            “I don’t like it,” she said pausing before putting on her black leather jacket.

            “I know,” he said taking her jacket and holding it for her to slide her arms in.

            “But you still want to help him,” she said looking over her shoulder at him.

The second adds details and description while slowing the pace down.  The difficulty is finding the balance between the fast pace you may want and being able to get all the description in that you need.

This is where you make an effort to have more active voice (if not all) than passive voice. You have to ask questions like – do we need to know that she’s wearing a black leather jacket?  Is it important to the story?

It may sound ridiculous but it’s looking at every word to determine if each word and each detail is needed.  There’s a middle ground between the longer and slower pace.  You can have some quick dialog and then throw in the details which are needed before going back to the faster paced dialog. 

It is all dependent on the mood you’re trying to build.  If it’s a tense moment leading to a fight / action scene, you may want to pick up the pace.  If it’s not you can stretch it out a little. 

Do you need black leather jacket?  Maybe later you use that black leather jacket to identify her in a crowd or among the injured or ???  If you need it, add it.  If not, you could maybe just say leather jacket or just jacket.  Only you as the author can make that decision. 

If you have a writing question you want answered or discussed, use the contact form to let me know.

Passive Vs Active

My grammar nerd is showing so be warned – grammar heavy post.

Image by alan9187 on Pixabay 

According to passive voice is one of the two voices of verbs.  A verb is in the passive voice when the subject of the sentence is acted on by the verb. 

Again according to, active voice is one of the two voices of verbs.  When the verb of a sentence is in the active voice, the subject is doing the acting. 

Does that make sense?  Maybe or maybe not.  Do you know what a subject is?  So this takes me back to grammar school but the subject of the sentence is the person place, thing or idea doing something. 

Simple sentences

I went to the store – I is the subject

Samantha hit a homerun – Samantha is the subject

These two simple sentences are both in active voice.  The subject – I or Samantha – is doing the action. 

Image by creozavr on Pixabay 

Passive voice typically involves the BE verb.  There are so many of these and I’m not going to bore you with what the names for each are but here are the different forms – be, being, been, am, is, are, was, were.  If you see these words, the sentence is typically passive

I could give you all sorts of examples of passive voice vs active voice but I’m not a teacher and don’t want to put you to sleep.  Let me just say my go to place for explaining grammar type things is Purdue OWL  Here’s a link to one of their pages on passive voice

What I will say is when you’re writing – or more to the point editing – passive voice slows your pace down and isn’t good for certain types of scenes.  Are you going to be able to get rid of all the passive voice in your story – probably not.  But in key scenes – like fight scenes – it’s best to keep the passive voice to a minimum.

Why?  Because it’s more direct.  It adds to your writing to keep it in active voice.  The pace is faster – particularly in fight or battle scenes.  When you write in passive voice, you slow things down.

Passive voice – The sword was expertly wielded by the warrior. 

Active voice – The warrior expertly wielded her sword.  

In passive voice, you slow down and the pace is slower like this:

            The sword was expertly wielded by the warrior.  Long swipes were made by her as the enemy approached.  The enemy was killed by the warrior.

Now in active voice the pace is faster:

            The warrior expertly wielded the sword.  She made long swipes with her sword as the enemy approached.  She killed the enemy.

As the eye follows along, the reader is (hopefully) gasping with excitement as the warrior steps into battle. 

There are times for passive voice.  If you have a really fast paced scene and you need it to slow down a little, you can use passive voice to slow it down.

The more you remove the passive voice, the better the story will read, the more on edge your reader will be.

If you have a writing question you want answered or discussed, use the contact form to let me know.

Who? From Where?

Francesco Petrungaro [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

What is the point of view (POV) and why does it matter?  POV is who is telling your story.  When you’re writing your story, you need to decide which POV you will use. 

This is an area where I want to make sure I’m giving you the right information and it’s already out there so here’s my source:

1st person The main character is telling the story.  You use words like I, me, my or we if you are doing plural. 

2nd person The writer has the narrator speak to the reader.  You use words like you, your, and yours.  This is commonly used in business writing, technical writing, speeches, song lyrics, and advertising

3rd person The writer has a narrator telling the story and uses words like he, she, it, or they.  The point of view can be either omniscient where the reader knows what all the characters are doing or it can be limited to having the reader only know what is happening to one specific character. 

No one can tell you what POV to write in.  It really depends on how all knowing you want your reader to be and how intimate you want your story to be.  First person tends to be up close and personal. The author has to be creative in gathering information because you can’t give any information except what the main character actually experiences.  If the main character isn’t part of the action scene, how do you inform your reader about it and how do you incorporate other action?  You have to come up with ways.  Is the character someone people will confide in?  Can they bump into another character to have that character say – did you know, see, hear?  This takes a lot of thought and care. 

Another thing to consider is how the person talks about themselves.  There are definitely drawbacks in how the character will talk and express themselves than if you have a little more distance like with third person.  Here’s an example of first person

            He touched my thigh while moving closer.  His arm slipped around my shoulders.  I leaned in to let him know I was interested.  His body heat hit me first. I felt my stomach tighten and my nipples harden with his arms around me.  His lips brushed against my cheek. Lame but then… oh hmmm, he found that spot.  Yup that did it.  Made my toes curl and my womanhood beg.  He found the spot behind my ear which turned me to putty.  Did I want him to know this?  We had been at odds but now, if he kept kissing me, touching me, I’d forget about it all and strip him naked to have my way or let him have his way with me.

In this section you get the female’s point of view and all the thoughts rushing through her head.  Only the author can decide if first person works for you.  For the sake of full disclosure, I am not a fan of first person.  I think you get too much of the one character and not enough of the other characters.  It has its place but I’m not a fan and struggle when I read first person books.

Third person puts a little distance between the reader and the characters.  It allows the author to offer up multiple perspectives.  You can get both the male and female’s POV in the scene above or someone else’s if they happen to be watching. 

As for 2nd person, I’ve never seen this in a fictional novel.  I have seen it in self-help books, articles, and other business writing.  I’m not sure you could write a love scene in second person but it would be an interesting to see a sample if someone did it. 

One thing you should consider doing – research in the genre you want to write in.  If the genre is strictly first person, you should probably write in first person.  If it varies, you get to pick.  In reality you get to pick but you may stand out in the genre.  Whether this is good or not, depends on the quality of the story and writing.

If you have a writing question you want answered or discussed, use the contact form to let me know.

How Many Words?

You’ve got your rough draft done!  You’ve done your happy dance but freeze as you suddenly realize it’s only…. You fill in the number of words…. 40,000, 150,000, or 3,813 words long.  Is this a novel?  Is it too long?  Too short?  What length should a novel or novella or novelette or short story be? 

According to Wikipedia and other sources here’s typical word count:

  • Short story – under 7,500
  • Novelette – 7,500 to 17,499
  • Novella – 17,500 to 39,999
  • Novel – 40,000 and up

Other sources included a sub heading for flash fiction being under 1,000 (or 1,200 or 1,500). 

Writer’s Digest categorizes them as follows:

  • Short story – 1,500 to 30,000
  • Novella – 30,000 to 50,000
  • Novel – 55,000 to 300,000

(What happens if your writing is between 50K and 55K?  Apparently it falls into no novel’s land?)

IAPWE (lots of letters for International Association of Professional Writers & Editors) states “There’s no universal standard for the different classifications.”  Their suggested word counts match Wikipedia. 

Take a deep breath and relax.  It’s a rough draft, you don’t have a final word count.  Believe me when I tell you this is the start – and only the start – of what your final will look like.

Here’s an article which breaks down by genre the typical length.

Things to consider:

If you’ve written 10,000 words and wanted a novel, you’re not done.  You’ve gotten through the first act (if this were a play).  You need to ask yourself – is there more to the story?  Are their places I can expand while improving the story?  You definitely don’t want to just add filler.  Don’t ever just start adding adjectives to increase the word count.  Your blue plush sofa shouldn’t suddenly be a blue plush three seated sofa.  Empty filler loses readers and gets you bad reviews. So can you add more without it being empty filler?  Or is this it? 

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images on Pixabay 

There’s nothing wrong with 10K being a damn good 10K story.  If this is it, congratulations you’ve got a rough draft for a short story.  You are ready for the next step. 

If there is more, get a snack and wade back in.  Your characters have more to whisper in your ear about their story. 

What genre are you writing in?  IAPWE suggests looking for organizations which represent your genre and see what they recommend for word length.  Scifi tends to be longer – over 100K while romance is more likely to be shorter – 50K to 100K. 

It never hurts to do research.  Research the publishers who are prominent in the genre you’re writing in.  Look for their submission guidelines.  Be aware – just because your novel is in their word count guidelines there’s no guarantee you’ll get published.  But their requirements can give you a goal to strive for. 

If you’ve written a romance that is 125K words long, you many need to cut scenes.  No you won’t actually bleed to death if you cut scenes – it will only feel like it.

Does this mean a scifi novel can’t be 60K long?  Nope.  But if you try submitting to a traditional publisher, they are likely to reject it out of hand.  If you self-publish, readers may not be willing to pay as much. These are not key at this stage but they are things to think about as you move forward.

Obviously the key is to get a good story written.  The rough draft is the starting point it is not your ending point.  You have LOTS of steps to work through before you’re done. 

If you have a writing question you want answered or discussed, use the contact form to let me know.

So You Want to Be a Writer

Aha!  You have a great idea for a book – novel or nonfiction.  You KNOW it will be a best seller.  How do you get started?

Image by congerdesign on Pixabay 

The really short and somewhat snarky answer to this question is write!  That doesn’t really help.  You can search any bookseller to find how to books.  The reality is put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and start writing.

If you go to a writer’s group – online or in person – there will be all sorts of options people will throw at you. 

I think the most common question is are you a pantser or a plotter?  Your response like mine is probably – huh?  Plotter is a writer who plots out their books.  This could be as easy as creating a general outline or as complicated as details to the minutest level for each chapter and scene. 

A pantser – which is what I am mostly – comes from the saying – fly by the seat of your pants.  Meaning – you write as you go.  There isn’t a lot of outlining or planning.  You sit down and put your story on paper / computer.  Every time I try to outline anything, I get sidetracked.  I’ve outlined and then written.  It never ends up like the outline.  My characters don’t like to play inside the box any more than I do. 

Ultimately, only you can decide how you write best.  If you sit down to write and stare at the blank page and end up with a blank mind – maybe you need to do an outline.  If you have so many ideas but no direction, maybe an outline would help.  Only YOU can make that decision. 

This leads to the next question – are you writing in sequence?  Or are you writing scenes and putting them in order later?  I’m very much a linear writer.  When I have to add or rearrange scenes it throws me for a loop.  However, it is again up to you.

One author I know has scenes written for several books.  He gets ideas for his plot and gets the scenes down on paper.  Then he goes back and connects the dots from scene to scene. 

This is again a decision only you as the author can make.  If the opening scene intimidates you, skip to write a scene you do see in your head.  Eventually you’ll have to write the opening scene but if you aren’t finding it to start, move forward and write other scenes. 

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors on Pixabay 

Here are some other things to consider:

  • Don’t worry about grammar, sentence structure, spelling, or any of the other dos and don’ts people throw out in books, blogs, and writer’s groups. 

The reality is you are creating a rough draft.  The only thing you need to worry about is getting the story written.  Get words on the page and move on.  Rough drafts suck and are usually not readable.

  • Don’t worry about word counts.  Some authors set goals of writing 500 words a day or 1000 / 100 / 300 / 279 or some other random number. 

If that works for them – fabulous.  If it work for you – fabulous.  If it doesn’t work, you are creating a barrier between you and the story.  In reality you likely are working a day job.  If you set a goal of 1000 words a day and have a crappy day, you aren’t going to meet that goal.  Then the next day you’re behind so you feel like you have to write both day’s goals.  It can be counterproductive.  For me, I write when I feel it.  I’ve written a novel in four days.  It was ROUGH, needed more scenes and a lot of refining and editing but the general book was done in four days.  Novels start around 45 – 50K depending on the genre.  If I divide those 50K by 4 days I wrote something like 12.5K a day.  Possible – I remember being really tired and really driven by the story. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are times it’s taken me years to write a novel.  I’d write a little 100 word scene and be stumped.  I put it away and come back to it when the next scene came to me.  I’m not a goal oriented person.  If you are, set realistic goals and be flexible.  Otherwise you end up with barriers to writing. 

  • Tense / POV – some genres are typically written in a particular tense / POV.  For example contemporary paranormal is typically written in first person present tense.  If you’re going to market your book in this genre, typically you should write the way the readers expect the genre to be written.

Having said this, if you hate that – write it your way.  I am not a big fan of first person and almost always write in third person.  I’ve not written a contemporary paranormal novel.  If I decide to write in that genre, I’d have to consider writing in a POV I’m not fond of and a tense I don’t normally write in. 

You’re the author, the creator of the whole world in the book.  Tell your story your way.  The rest can be figured in editing.  The most important thing is to write.  It doesn’t matter if you set up a work space with a lucky bobble head (creepy but okay) or use your phone to do the rough draft (talk to text can be really helpful) or write it out long hand in a spiral or pad of paper.  Find your groove, write, write, write, write, write…. Did I mention you should WRITE?  How you do it is all up to you. 

Write your words, your way and tell a good story.  Everything else can be worked out in editing.

Mentors and Supporters

As a writer I’m often stumbling around trying to figure out how to do different things.  For instance as I’m looking at covers to assess which one I want, I try to look at them in different ways – across the room, on the computer, asking other people.  A writer friend of mine suggest I look at them at a smaller size (1 x 1.5) as that is how they will appear in a search on Amazon.  Changing the size creates a different perspective and one I hadn’t thought to do.  It changed my perception of the covers. 
Another writer friend told me how she organizes her to do list.  She is an editor / writer and uses a datebook binder to keep track of all of her tasks.  This is of course another area I struggle with.  I always have a long list of tasks I need to complete. 
The writer’s group I belong to has been helpful in knowing some of the tricks of the trade.  You can read tons of books but I’ve never seen a book written on these type of practical functions in the writing field.  Mostly I think you have to figure out what works for you.  It is nice though to have mentor type people who help you along as you learn and grow.
The flip side to this is I always try to be very careful to not take advantage of my mentors.  Time is a precious commodity and if they take time to help me I don’t want to infringe on it more than is necessary.  I prefer to give as to them as much as they give to me.  Obviously we are at different places for experience.  I happen to be wonderful at software so I offer up my experience in that area when they need assistance. 
There are also people who aren’t in writing who encourage, read, and kick my bum when I need it.  These people offer encouragement, read and comment on work, look at covers, and give me a good kick in the bum when needed. 
Without this support system, I don’t think I’d have accomplished all I have at this stage.  Often I find myself too close to a project to see what needs to be different.  A perfect example of this is a short story I wrote.  I wrote the story with the sole intention it was going to be just a short story.  A few thousand words and then I was going to enter it into contests and so on.  Several people told me I should develop it into a book.  I kept saying – no it is just a short story.  I was determined that I’d told everything that needed telling in the story.
When I took my Fiction Writing class, I submitted it for critique.  Almost the entire class thought it should be a book length with more development.  I grumbled at my daughter about it and she very nicely gave me a good smack the back of my head (I call this a Gibb’s smack).  Essentially she told me to stop and think about what people were suggesting to me. 
I did this and it is now in my development pile.  I was able to split it up into chapters and have even started filling out more details of each of the chapters.  As I thought about how I would split it up into chapters, I got more excited about the story and I could see where there was more story to tell. 
My process is very much let the story tell itself.  When it is done, I switch hats from creator to editor.  The problem with this – particularly in the case of the short story is sometimes I don’t see the additional potential in some of the work.  This is where my supporters and mentors come in.  They help me take that step back to a more objective place.