“H” is for “Help!”
This post in the #AtoZChallenge is all about writing. Regardless of the unique ideas and talent you possess, if you want to improve your writing skills and publish an awesome book, you need to seek help.
Fortunately, you can find help in many ways:
Libraries and bookstores – no matter where you are on the writing journey, there is always room for improvement. Check out a few books on writing. Make them part of your home library and read them regularly.
- Stein on Writing – by Sol Stein, legendary editor, writer, and teacher.
- Plot and Structure – by James Scott Bell. Techniques and exercises for crafting a gripping plot.
- The Writer’s Journey – by Christopher Vogler. Taking a look at the classical “Hero’s Journey.”
- How to Write a Damn Good Novel – by James N. Frey. A step-by-step guide to dramatic storytelling.
Online resources – make a commitment to regularly search out writing tips and advice online. Learn from your peers. Learn from the pros. While you’ll often come across people who want to sell you something, a ton of information is available at no cost. And it can transform your writing and take it to the next level.
- Writers Helping Writers – Home of the Bookshelf Muse. This website offers a variety of helpful information (much of it free) for writers, including writing book recommendations and (my favorite) the Thesaurus Collections. The Thesaurus Collection contains “hundreds of descriptive entries to help you add texture and authenticity to your writing.” These descriptions include colors, textures, shapes, character traits, setting details, symbolism, and motifs.
- The Snowflake Method – you can do an online search to see if this method is for you. Advanced Fiction Writing describes the method, giving you enough fun information to make use of it. Without buying the book or program, I’ve found it helpful in learning the specifics of designing a scene and overall story design.
- Novel Writing Help and other blogs also offer an abundance of great information from finding ideas to creating compelling characters and developing plot. And everything in between.
Critique groups and partners – if you are new to writing, this might be a scary step. But you’ve got to do it! We love to hear how awesome our writing is, but we need to hear how to improve. Show other authors your work and get their advice. Your local library might have a writers group. But you can join online groups too. Each group will offer something different.
For many years I was a member of the online critique group called Critique Circle. It is free to join. Here you can exchange chapters with other writers and give and receive advice. This was where, many years ago, I first shared chapters of my stories. My writing was wordy and clunky. My readers couldn’t tell how my characters were feeling. And my critique partners weren’t afraid to tell me so. When I received critiques on the first chapter I submitted, I admit I decided I wasn’t cut out for writing. And I gave up. Of course that is not the end of the story. I got back up, smoothed out the balled up pages of my manuscript, taped the critiques back together, and learned how to improve my writing.
I currently belong to a critique group in the Catholic Writers Guild. No matter how great you become at writing, I recommend always being part of a critique group. Critique partners can help ensure a scene or character is coming across the way you intend. My critique partners are awesome and indispensable! And it’s helpful to have critique partners that write in your genre too.
Writers Digest has an article about finding the right critique group for you. Check it out.
Beta readers – these indispensable people can make your story stronger, catch plot holes and other inconsistencies, and so much more. How do you find them? You can find them on Facebook or the other social media platforms you frequent. I recommend choosing from avid readers and/or writers. They will be able to give you the best feedback.
More suggestions: Don’t send a first draft to the beta readers. Give them your very best. And go ahead and ask them for specific feedback. You can even create a checklist of questions that you’d like them to answer or things you’d like them to look for. Be sure to thank them when they’re done and try to return the favor!
Everything that I suggested in this blog can be accomplished for free. You don’t need to spend money to grow in your craft. But you do need to be committed to it, determined to be the very best and to continually grow.
I would love to hear about your favorite writing books and online resources! Please share in the comments.