Categories
Craft

Online Writing Tools That Can Help You Write Your Novel

When Dickens sat down to create and write, he was faced with far fewer distractions than we are. But, he also had less to help him.

Sure, he could go hang out with Yates and Thackeray, but he didn’t have access to the wealth of online writing tools we have today.

So, we may count ourselves as lucky writers that we can find an answer to our queries in seconds today, and that there are online tools made just for us.

Are you ready to write your novel and would love a helping hand?
Here are some online writing tools that can help you reach your goal!

Here are some of my favourite online writing tools

Scrivener

An online tool for writers who just need to write! Scrivener can help you organise your work, and many say it is easier to use than Word. It also helps with formatting, a process that some authors find laborious.

Grammarly

Even the free version of Grammarly is quite helpful! It doesn’t just check spelling for you, but it offers clear grammar information that can be very helpful.

It’s not always right, so do bear in mind that carefully checking is sometimes needed, but overall it’s an app that can make your writing tighter.

Evernote

Evernote is your virtual novel scrapbook! This app is so great for those moments when an idea suddenly hits you, and you need somewhere to scribble it down.

The best thing about this is that you can add photos, videos, voice notes, tasks and keep them all in one handy place, so you don’t have to scramble around to find them again.

Cliche Finder

I love this tool because it’s not always easy to find those cliches in our work. After all, the way we speak is often through cliches, so it makes sense that those well-known phrases sneak into our text.

Cliches are not always bad, but this tool helps make you more aware of the content of your writing, and that’s a good thing.

And finally…The Novel Writing Masterclass

Yep, I’m going to include the online course that I have created! It’s Time to Write Your Novel: The Masterclass is a bite-size course designed to take you through the stages of writing your novel.

It includes 40 classes that have been created to fit into your busy life, with worksheets. The idea is that you watch one and then move onto the next one when you have completed the requested step.

This means that you are being held accountable for your creative actions and are stepping through the process of planning, creating, writing, and next steps.

As a Doctor of Creative Writing with years of experience lecturing and tutoring adults, I’ve created this course to be fun, easy to watch, and informative and help you write the novel you know you can write.

Here’s what we chat about:

  • Time blocking
  • Coming up with ideas
  • Getting in the creative zone
  • Creative Data
  • Characterisation
  • Plot
  • Setting
  • Character arcs
  • Secondary and tertiary characters
  • Grammatical person
  • Tense
  • Planning your novel
  • Word Count
  • Dialogue
  • Research
  • Incentives
  • Motivation
  • Accountability
  • Blurbs
  • Plot holes (and how to fix them)
  • Peer reviewing
  • Editing and Self Editing
  • Developing a thick skin
  • Self Publishing
  • Traditional Publishing
  • Formatting
  • Marketing
  • Agents
  • Synopsis
  • Cover Letters
  • Social Media for Authors

If you are ready to move forward with your writing, to go from ‘I don’t know how to write this‘ to ‘I’ve got this novel written‘, then get in touch.

I’ll be going live with my new website and this masterclass very soon, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

Alright, those are my suggestions for online writing tools!

Assistance is available, and you are not on this writing journey alone, writer. If you want to talk about 1:1 coaching, you need an editor, or you’ve just got questions in general about how I can help you – get in touch. I would love to talk to you about your writing!

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Categories
Craft

5 Tips to Help You Finish Writing Your Novel

The rumours are true; I can give you five tips and tricks for finishing your novel. But, before I do, I want you to highlight the most important one…taking steps toward putting these into action.

Because, after all of the tips, tricks, and general advice one writer can give another, the most valuable is this: taking imperfect action will get you to your goal.

1. Taking imperfect action

What is imperfect action?
Imperfect action means throwing out the idea that everything you do and create needs to be perfect and committing to taking action that gets you toward your goal instead.

A first draft is a great example. When you’re writing a first draft, the idea is to just get the story down on paper. It doesn’t matter if later you will need to change that characters name, or if actually, the villain should be crueller, or even that you have continuously misspelt the word ‘sandwich’.

Take imperfect action and allow yourself to make mistakes, get work done, and achieve your dream.

2. Create a realistic writing routine

Oh, I do go on about creating a writing routine, don’t I?
Yes, and here’s why: it changed my life.
It enabled me to write two novels in a year, complete a full-time Creative Writing PhD while working two jobs, and more.

Creating a routine that works for you is how to write your novel and get that dream achieved!

Want to know how it’s done? Look no further than the Ultimate Guide to Creating Your Writing Routine – right here.

3. Give yourself a deadline

Deadlines are your friend! Once you have your writing routine ready and you are committed to taking imperfect action, set a realistic deadline that will allow you to write your novel. Once it’s set, tell other people about it so that you have some accountability. You’re more likely to strive toward a goal if a deadline is set and you have other people who are aware of it.

4. Set clear boundaries

Everyone has different people vying for their time, whether it’s partners, kids, dogs, friends…the list is endless. It’s up to you to set clear boundaries with others so that you can use your writing time as your own.

Tell other people what your writing routine is. Stick it up on the fridge. Close the door when you need to, and give yourself the chance to achieve your goal.

Once you reach small successes – from hitting that word count in the week or getting half of your novel written, make sure you involve the people in your life in the celebration of this. That way, they are far more likely to respect your time, boundaries and will be excited to be a part of your journey – even though they’re not allowed in the room when you’re actually writing.

5. Use the compound effect

The compound effect is the idea that small steps equal big success. Got ten minutes? Don’t let it get away by using it on procrastination; grab it with a pen and paper and get one hundred words down. Taking advantage of those moments will increase more than your word count; it will get you closer to your goal of writing your novel.

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Need a hand with finishing your book?

Get in touch. As a certified coach, and with a PhD, MA and BA in Creative Writing, I can help you get space cleared in your life to write your novel. A discovery call with me is free, informal and friendly. It’s the opportunity to talk about what you’re struggling with in your writing life. Why not give it a go?

Categories
Productivity

7 Ways to Get Rid of Writer’s Block

Ah, writer’s block! It can come along at any time and sometimes without warning.

Whether or not you believe in it, writer’s block can appear in many guises and hold us back when creating. So what can you do when this happens?

I scoured the authors’ quotes so that you don’t have to, to break down ways we can get through the pesky writer’s block.

1. Write badly

I haven’t had writer’s block. I think it’s because my process involves writing very badly.” — Jennifer Egan

It’s true that we don’t often talk about editing block, and that writer’s block happens most when we are faced with that first draft of a novel.

Permit yourself to write badly, to get the bones of your idea down on paper and worry about it later. The more you allow yourself to get writing, the easier writing will be.

2. Set a Timer or a deadline

I don’t believe in writer’s block. Think about it — when you were blocked in college and had to write a paper, didn’t it always manage to fix itself the night before the paper was due? Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands.” — Jodi Picoult

Giving yourself a deadline, or even setting a timer for ten minutes and free writing, can really loosen up that creative faucet. If you have a deadline to stick to, you will be more likely to get words down to reach it.

3. Change the project

I try and deal with getting stuck by having more than one thing to work on at a time. And by knowing that even a hundred bad words that didn’t exist before is forward progress.” — Neil Gaiman

If you really can’t see a way forward for your current project, that doesn’t mean that the writing game is up! Write anything else, start something new, and get that creativity flowing again. Then, you’ll have something to come back to next time you feel stuck.

4. Remove the pressure

I deal with writer’s block by lowering my expectations. I think the trouble starts when you sit down to write and imagine that you will achieve something magical and magnificent — and when you don’t, panic sets in. The solution is never to sit down and imagine that you will achieve something magical and magnificent. I write a little bit, almost every day, and if it results in two or three or (on a good day) four good paragraphs, I consider myself a lucky man. Never try to be the hare. All hail the tortoise.” — Malcolm Gladwell

Writing a novel is like climbing a mountain. It requires one foot in front of the other, and one word after another. No one writes perfection in their first sitting, so try and remove the pressure and take it one word at a time.

5. Practice makes a writer

Writer’s block is a misnomer and can be compared with turning off a faucet. Like the ability to write, faucets can develop problems when they’re seldom used. You get all this rust in the pipes. When you turn on the faucet, a lot of rust comes out.” — Susan Neville

Don’t let your faucet go rusty! Practice writing every week. You don’t need to write daily to be a regular writer, but try and find at least an hour a week to practice the craft and keep your creativity flowing.

6. Don’t give in

Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.” — Charles Bukowski

Write about anything. Write about what you had for lunch at school. Write about the weather. Write about having writer’s block. Just write, because the more you do, the easier it will be.

7. Research

You’re not missing the words; you’re missing the research. All ideas are a combination of preexisting ideas. So if you’re “out” of new ideas it’s probably because you don’t have enough old ideas to combine. Go back and read more. Or spend more time mapping out the book. Don’t show up to the keyboard without a plan and then tell the world you have writer’s block. You’re lying to us, and to yourself.” — David Burkus

Research can inspire ideas, new paths, add depth to current work, and so much more. If you are struggling to write today, then take a moment to research instead, and immerse yourself in the world you are creating.

There you have it, seven ways to overcome writer’s block! Which one most appeals to you?

Send me a message and let me know.

If you’re struggling with writer’s block and want to chat one-on-one about it, I’m available for coaching. You would be amazed at what a little investigation in your process and mindset can do!

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Categories
Publishing

5 Ways to Find Your Next Beta Reader

You’re writing your novel, and everything is going swimmingly, and then suddenly, you’re done! Well, what now?

It’s time to find those beta readers so that you can start to gather that invaluable feedback.

When looking for a beta reader, make sure that you are approaching people who know about your genre, understand what you require from them, are honest, and great readers.

But apart from this…how do you actually find a beta reader?

Here are five ways to get your work read!

1 Hiring

Yes, if you are struggling to find a beta reader and you want to know that someone is definitely going to prioritise your work, it’s might be time to hire a beta reader.

Many editors can act as beta readers, and you can also find professional beta readers who focus on that alone. Websites such as Fiverr have beta readers at incredibly reasonable prices. However, if you’re not looking to hire someone right now – read on!

2 The Online Writing Community

This is such a fantastic way to find someone to read your work. The online writing community is strong on Instagram and Twitter, so search the hashtag #BetaReader and make those valuable connections. You might also find that you can swap your own novel with another writer’s novel for a beta reading swap.

3 Writing Groups

Search for writing groups in your local area and give one a go! I am a huge believer in the power of writing groups, and it is such a pleasure to attend one and bask in two hours spent a week purely working on the craft that we all love so much. Often members will be willing to read your work, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.

4 Goodreads

Yep – Goodreads is not just a review forum! They also have groups, like this one – Here – specifically designed to connect writers to beta readers!

You can also find beta readers on Wattpad.

5 Friends and Family

I say this with some hesitation because whether or not you should ask your friends and family to read your work initially relies on the same things as I mentioned above.

If a friend or family member is going to read your work, still ask yourself whether they are great readers, whether they know about your genre, and whether they can be honest with you.

I am very fortunate to have some great and honest beta readers in my family, and many famous writers also share their work with a spouse or family member before anyone else.

It entirely depends on your relationship and their interests too.

So, there are five ways to find the beta reader for your project!

It can be scary sending your work out there, so do take a look at this blog post on receiving constructive criticism for your work. Overall, choose a good beta reader, and you’re going to reap the rewards of peer review soon enough.

Did you find this post helpful?
If so, share it with other writers who might need a hand finding a beta reader!

Are you looking to hire a beta reader?

As an editor and writing coach, I would be interested in reading your work. Get in touch and tell me about your project.

Categories
Coaching

What is a Writing Coach?

I’ve been asked this question a few times over the last few weeks, and I believe that this is because it’s a fairly new title – though of course, editors and beta readers etc have been around for a long time.

So what is a writing coach anyway?

The best way to think of a writing coach is as a personal trainer for your writing and creative life.

Just like a personal trainer would teach you the techniques for a great workout, hold you accountable, and deliver a plan that’ll help you be your best self – a writing coach will do the same for your writing life and novel.

As a writer with a PhD, MA, BA and a Certified Professional Life Coach, I’ve got the skillset and experience to help you at any point along the way.

From coming up with an idea for a novel to planning, prepping and writing, right through editing and to the final stage of publishing (however you choose to do it), I can be your creative personal trainer!

Whatever you’re struggling with, I can help take you from procrastination to print.

If you’re ready to knock the word ‘aspiring’ from your bio, and replace it with the word ‘author’, a writing coach could be just right for you!

Want to chat about coaching?
Get in touch or book a Discovery call

Categories
Craft

What Does It Mean to Write What You Know?

‘Write what you know’ is one of those common phrases that gets thrown around Creative Writing classrooms, sometimes without too much explanation on what it actually means.

As a Creative Writing tutor and coach, I’ve always gone into detail with students and clients about what I mean when I say this – and now I’m going to explain it to you!

Some people get confused when they are faced with this phrase, as they think that it limits them to writing about the ‘real world’.

However, this is not the case. One can write about a world filled with dragons and monsters, and still be writing what they know. I’m not saying that one actually thinks they are in a dragon-filled land (although really, who am I to comment), but rather that writing what you know is not to be taken in such a literal way.

So what does it mean then?

It means that you should draw on your experiences to add value, realism and emotion to your writing. When Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings he was not drawing on his experience of traversing mountainous lands with an elf beside him. He was drawing on his experience of:

  • Friendship and relationships
  • Storytelling
  • Geography
  • People
  • History
  • Religion

It was this knowledge that helped Tolkien write such an epic fantasy series.

Writing what you know, coupled with imagination, can equal a wondrous creation.

For example, you may be writing about a soldier leaving his family and joining the Second World War.
Now, chances are that you weren’t actually around during the Second World War, so how can you write what you know when it comes to this? Well, you may have experienced true heartbreak. You may have missed somebody dreadfully. You may know what it is like to do without or to focus on a smaller picture just so you can get through the day.

These are all elements of knowledge and experience that could add real depth to a character’s journey and story.

Writing what you know doesn’t mean that you can only write about a thirty year old who lives in the UK. It means that you should draw from all of your life experience, all of the emotion that has ever driven you, and pour it into your fictional work to create believable tales of depth and beauty.

Categories
Publishing

Traditional Vs Self-Publishing. Which is right for you?

Finished that novel? Amazing – so what’s next?
Yup – you want it to be published.

You’ll see two types of author, those who have been traditionally published, and those who have self-published.

Which is best for you?

Let’s look at the pros and cons of both so that you can make an informed decision.

Self-Publishing
Pros

When it comes to self-publishing there are a few things that make it super attractive.

The first? You are definitely getting published.
That’s a given. Your book is going to be available for other people to buy.

You will also be able to choose all of the elements – the cover, the blurb, the photograph of you on the inside. You’ll get to choose the title, how the book looks, and basically everything about it.

I mean that’s pretty awesome, because it is, after all, your book.

There are also so many easy ways to self-publish these days! There’s the obvious – Amazon – who take you through the process very easily, providing templates etc, and giving you options to order a copy for proof-reading.

You can also choose to publish through other vendors, and you may even be able to get your book into bookstores and libraries. Wattpad also gets an honourable mention as an easy way to self-publish to ready to read readers!

You hold the rights! This is a big one for authors and is not always the case in traditional publishing deals.

The history of people who have self-published is impressive.

Did you know that Beatrix Potter couldn’t get her Peter Rabbit stories published in the way she wanted, so she self-published them?

There are also many success stories of authors who started off self-publishing and now have films made of their books, not to mention traditional publishing houses banging on the door to publish their next work.

This genuinely does happen, but it is not a common occurrence.

Self-Publishing
Cons

Alright, now you’re all fired up to self-publish, let’s have a chat about the cons, because there are some.

Self-publishing means that you’re going to have to do all the marketing. Now, you might love that idea, and have thousands of followers online already, just waiting for the drop of your novel. However, you may not.

Marketing takes a lot of time and effort. Going beyond the actual creation of marketing material, posters, etc, it’s worth remembering that the self-publishing market is heavy with people trying to get you to buy their book. So how are you going to stand out and get noticed?

It’s worth considering writing a marketing strategy. Unfortunately, just having it available to buy online will not equal any sales.

Do you have the time to promote your novel?
Are you willing to put in the hours for a goal that is not necessarily attainable? These are things that are worth evaluating. I would also hazard to ask whether you buy independent self-published books yourself. The self-publishing industry only works if readers are willing to buy self-published works – so if you want to self-publish but don’t currently read other peoples books in this category, I would suggest starting, reading and reviewing!

Money. You are responsible for the costs of everything. It may be that you don’t spend any money and just want to market etc without sponsored posts, hiring marketing people, etc. However, marketing is one of those things that works better when money is involved – for example, social media as a whole is now more pay to play than anything else.

It’s worth chatting to others who have had success self-publishing and working out what they have done right, and how much it would cost you to do the same.

It’s worth considering whether you ever want the novel you have written to be traditionally published.

A lot of agents and publishers will not publish something that has already been published, and this includes making a novel available to people in general (for example, if you put something on your website and people can download it, it’s less likely to be published in the future).

Traditional Publishing
Pros

Traditional publishing is often spoken of in awed tones, and this is for good reason.

I see it as a sort of golden gate, and a few select people hold the key to the door.

This is problematic for a few reasons – the subjectivity of enjoying a novel, unconscious bias, etc. However, if one writes to an agent, gets selected, and eventually published, there are pros to be enjoyed!

Money. Yep. They give you money for your work, the work you’ve already done, and you don’t need to worry about paying for sponsored posts because it is in their interest to market your novel. You can share your delight on social media, trust that your book is going to end up in the right places and enjoy signing events that are organised on your behalf.

The main thing is you don’t have to worry about whether your book is going to sell – this is your publisher’s job now. You can start writing that next novel.

Once you’ve been accepted into the traditional publishing ring, you will often find it easier to get published from that point on. Your agent may ask you what’s in the pipeline, and you could even get an advance.

Many doors are opened once you are traditionally published, from lecturing positions to conferences and speeches at book fairs. This might not be your idea of fun, but it certainly becomes attainable.

Traditional Publishing
Cons

The odds are not in your favour. The odds of getting a literary agent are 1 in 1000 (according to JerichoWriters.com). Of those who have completed a manuscript, around 23% achieve the status of traditionally published (Medium.com/publishizer). Phew, I know. But listen, it’s not impossible, and it does happen. This is obviously the main con of traditional publishing – nothing is guaranteed.

Money. Hang on a minute – didn’t I say…? Yes! But wait. You’ll get lower royalty rates if you are traditionally published than if you self-publish.

Now you may not mind this, and it depends too on how much you were going to spend on self-publishing, but it’s worth a mention.

You usually don’t get to decide what your cover looks like, what the blurb is, the title of your book, how they will market it, and more. This can be painful if you have a vision for your work and your publishing house decides that it’s going to be something completely different. Overall, once you sign the contract, they have the final say.

It can take up to two years for a book to be published from the time it is accepted. That’s a long wait to hold your novel in your hands.

You may not hold the rights to your work anymore. It’s worth really inspecting that fine print and working out what it means for you and your work.

A Note on Publishing

Whatever you decide to go for, please remember this one golden rule.

You have the goods, and should be paid for that. If you send your work off to a publishing company and they respond asking for an upfront payment, just run away. They are not legitimate, and are a vanity publisher. This could cost you thousands, and you’d still be lumped with the marketing on top of it. It’s never worth it.

Already contacted a publisher and wondering whether to chase?
Check out this blog post on following up with an agent or publisher!

Want to chat more about publishing, or have any other questions?
Get in touch or book a Discovery call

Categories
Publishing

When to Follow up With a Literary Agent or Publisher

Oh, it’s a tricky question.

There you are, waiting patiently for your response from the agent/publisher you have contacted, and suddenly, you start to wonder…

Did they receive my email?

Is it professional to chase and ask what they think?

Are they rejecting without letting me know?

And then the other questions start coming. Is it better to know something than nothing? Are you happy sitting in a strange Schrödinger’s cat type scenario, where the possibilities are preferable to the actual (potentially negative) answer?

Well, fear not.

First of all, it is totally normal to have these questions and thoughts, and it’s completely understandable too.

However, though you may be having these thoughts, it does not necessarily mean a follow-up email is appropriate.

In fact, most agents and publishers would be surprised to receive a follow-up email had they not requested to read more of your work after your initial email.

So when is it okay to send a follow-up email?

It is okay to send a follow-up email if a few rules apply:

You have left a good amount of time between the initial email and your follow up email. A week, or even a month, is too short a time (sorry).

If it’s been about three months, then you are in a good time frame, but make sure number 2 applies first…

You have checked the submission page of the company and it doesn’t have a ‘no response caveat’. For example, if they have written something along the lines of ‘If you have not heard from us after two months, you have been unsuccessful’. If this is stated, and you haven’t heard from them, a follow-up email does not need to be sent (as the answer to your request is already implied).

They requested a full manuscript, and you sent it. They will be expecting you to follow up in this scenario, just make sure that you have given them time to read the manuscript.

If you are happy that this is the case, it’s now okay to send that follow up email.

So, what do you say? Well, I find it is best to keep it simple.

For example:

Dear Agent/Publisher (use the actual name!),

I am writing to follow up on my email sent on 9th March 2021, regarding my novel The Follow Up Email. Could provide me with an update on the status of my submission, please?

I appreciate that you are extremely busy, and thank you for taking the time to read my email.

Kind regards,

Hopeful Author (use actual name!)’

As you can see, this email is short, polite, and to the point. I also acknowledge that they are busy people and that their attention is appreciated.

Once you have followed up, wait for a response, and chase no more.

Best of luck!

Categories
Productivity

Splitting Time – Separating Writing and Research Time

Welcome writer!

Do you ever sit down to write and find that instead you’ve spent an hour researching?

Well, here’s a little writer’s hack from the mines of my writing brain to limit that issue – I call it Splitting Time.

If you’ve checked out my blog post Ten Tips for Planning Your Writing Week, you’ll know that I am a planner.

I know, from experience and my Creative Writing studies, that planning is the best way to get that novel written.

I mention this because that’s the backbone of Splitting Time – preparation is KEY!

Here’s the practice: research and writing time are different.

Writing a novel requires ongoing research, but there’s a difference between checking a word is correct, making sure a phrase was used in the era you’re setting your novel in, and getting into a research rabbit hole that started with the type of wood used in a manor house in the nineteenth century, and suddenly has you watching an hour-long documentary on refurbishing listed buildings.

The point I’m making is – at some point, this sort of research becomes procrastination and goes from being helpful, to stopping you from getting useful writing done.

Splitting Time requires you to separate research and writing time.

For example, if you’re faced with the situation just mentioned and actually, you decide that it would be super helpful to watch the said documentary, that’s fine. But the time you spend watching that documentary will then mean that you owe that hour back to creative writing – that week. It’s up to you to hold yourself accountable.

This trick requires you to plan your week of writing ahead (so if you haven’t read the planning blog post – I would recommend it!), so that you know you’re spending three hours on Monday writing, for example.

Once you learn to view creative writing time as separate from research time, you’ll find that you’re getting more writing done.

Why?

Here’s how your week might look before time splitting.

In this example, we are imagining that you would like to spend four hours working on your novel during the week, and you have decided to do this between Monday and Thursday so you can have the weekend off:

  • Monday – Three hours of writing (made up of two hours of creative writing, one hour of research)
  • Tuesday – None
  • Wednesday – None
  • Thursday – One hour of writing (half an hour of writing, half an hour of research)

As you can see, four hours actually turned into two and a half hours of writing, and one and a half hours of research.

Here’s how your week would look after time splitting:

  • Monday – Two hours of writing, One hour of research.
  • Tuesday – Half an hour of writing, half an hour of research.
  • Wednesday – One and a half hours of writing.
  • Thursday – Half an hour of research.

You will notice that in this week, unlike the week before, any time taken from writing by research was then made up in the week.

This is why it’s helpful to have the week planned ahead of time, so you know how much time is owed to your writing practice.

In the second week it is acknowledged that the practice of writing deserves four hours this week, and so any research time is separated entirely by recording the time actual writing is taking place.

Remember that research is good fun!

That’s exactly why setting time for research specifically will not only limit the chance of falling down a rabbit hole and procrastinating under the guise of useful research but will give automatically assign more time to your writing.

Does it mean that you’re working on your novel more hours a week? Yes, it does, but by specifying ahead of time what your action is, more value will be gained.

Give it a go and let me know what you think!

Need some help Splitting Time? Get in touch or book a Discovery call

Categories
Coaching

How to Deal with Constructive Criticism of Your Writing

What stops a writer from wanting to share their work?

It certainly isn’t the prospect of having a novel on the shelf, because that’s something the majority of writers aspire to.

No, it’s something else. That something is to do with our old friend Constructive Criticism.

If you find this hard to deal with, you are not alone.

In fact, human beings brains are designed to hold on to and recognise the negative – it’s what kept us alive for a long time and it still sits in the back of our minds (or the front – I’m a writer, not a scientist).

What was once useful for avoiding being eaten, is now really pesky and stops us from being our best creative selves.

Here are some tips on how to be open to, and deal with, constructive criticism of your writing.

Be clear with what you’re looking for.

Are you looking for feedback?

No? If not, say that. If you are handing your work over to someone and you’re not looking for feedback, make it perfectly clear.

Likewise, if you are after some feedback be clear about what it is you do want.

Do you want them to focus on your grammar, or are you after their personal thoughts on the main character? Do you want them to focus on the plot, or are you hoping for an all-round critique?

Be upfront about your expectations from your reader – whether it’s your editor, your beta reader, or your mother. That way you can focus the feedback into an area that is helpful for you right now, and because you asked for the specifics, it won’t feel so completely overwhelming.

Ask the right people.

If you’re looking for constructive and helpful feedback from someone who you know never reads, let alone in the genre you write in, you may want to re-think.

Their feedback may end up frustrating you! Likewise, if you ask someone for feedback and you know that they have an issue with having difficult conversations, you may be setting yourself up for a compliment fest that’ll get your writing nowhere.

Consider carefully – who are you asking to read your work at this stage, and why? What is their expertise, and why do you value their creative opinion?

Discuss how you want feedback to be delivered.

There is nothing more disconcerting than someone coming to your door with a mass of problems, and if those problems are all to do with your novel specifically, it’s even worse.

You may have a preferred way of delivering feedback, so make sure you tell the person who is reading your work how to deliver your feedback.

My favourite way to deliver and receive feedback is through the compliment sandwich. If you haven’t heard of it, this is how it works:

  • Compliment – ‘Your main character is someone I really relate to, and their voice is strong.’
  • Criticism – ‘I didn’t connect with the world enough – is there a way of building this up in the background?’
  • Compliment – ‘Your use of the five senses is excellent – it really drew me in.’

Remind yourself of the good that comes from constructive criticism.

Remember – your reader and critique are just trying to help you make your novel awesome!

You are the writer of your novel, but that doesn’t mean you are your novel, so try and take a step back and view it from a place of generosity and willingness to learn.

If you need a break, say so, that’s fine. If you need to process some information that has been given to you, ask to postpone the rest of the chat until another time.

We’re all just people, after all, trying to write the best books we can. And one of the most useful tools we have as writers? That’s peer review.