Tag Archives: Lauren Sapala

On Paying For Professional Writing Critiques And Coaches

Starting With Caveats. How Typical.

Yes, yes, yes– of course, you have to have something written first (or at least a sizable portion of it). I recommend the words of Neil Gaiman as a source for this brand of inspiration.

“Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.”

― Neil Gaiman

This advice is even more relevant to me in the face of the experience report I’m about to offer. Trust me, my friends, I’ve written a glorious failure or two in my time. My draft folder is full of them. I have unfinished things too. It’s all part of the experience.

Thoughts, Reasons, and Ugh– Programmers.

I’m going to bring my experience programming computers into the frame. Why? Because as a group of people, programmers are perhaps the only individuals who can compare with writers in terms of being introverted, shy, and generally unwilling to work with others.

Let’s face it, we’re all just nerds of one variety or another. Yes, I made a broad generalization about almost everyone in my social circles.

My ostracisation is imminent.

A new programmer/coder/developer (or whatever you’d like to call us), straight out of college or someone going the DIY route, is green. When I was new, I’d finish an application, and it was not good enough. It was so obvious. I’d look at what I’d written a year, a month, or often only a day later, and I’d start to see the weaknesses.

The fastest way on earth for a programmer to level-up is to finish successful projects. You work and fight and research and scour the web and ask friends and eventually– you complete a fluffernutter. And it feels GOOD. Then, you give the fluffernutter you’ve built to someone who uses it.

What do they do? They break it.

They abuse your glorious fluffernutter.

They don’t use it in the ways you intended. It hurts. You created this fantastic fluffernutter so people could fluff nets with it, and they didn’t use it right. They didn’t understand. All because you didn’t know the best way to build it.

Sound familiar yet, writers?

Being a new programmer with the cloud or a mobile app store to deploy code to, is equivalent an indie author who publishes the first thing they write without any professional editing.

We’ve established that finishing is essential. Finishing helps us get to a state where real feedback is possible but isn’t there a way to improve quickly? There is for programmers. They engage in behaviors meant to amplify the cycle time of their learning.

Get Guidance From A More Experienced Person.

For coders, this can happen through pairing (sitting side-by-side writing the same thing together with only one person at the keyboard), code reviews, quick work cycles with smaller pieces of work, regular sessions with a mentor, or spending time in an apprenticeship.

Corporate America has all the incentive in the world to get programmers up to speed quickly. Coders are in short supply, they usually work at a company with peers, and hence, the development and use of all the methods described above.

Wait, You Just Said A Bunch Of Stuff About Computer Programming.
Is This A Trick?

In writing, we’re often an even more solitary crowd than coders, so what can writers do that maps most closely to code reviews and pair-programming and apprenticeships? Writers don’t usually have the benefit of working with a host of other writers unless they are working for some large publication or a school or a writers room for a TV production or some such thing. If you’re writing prose– hm.

There are a couple of options at your disposal:

  1. Join a writing critique group. If you’re lucky like me, the group will be an unending delight, but limited in their time to continually review your amateur work. **
  2. Pay for a professional critique by a writing coach, published author, freelance editor, etc.

**There are so many other reasons to join a writing group, but that’s a different blog post.

Gah! You Finally Mentioned Paying For Critiques.

Here’s the deal. As absolutely fantastic and essential a writing group is, those folks need time to write as well, and of course, you’ll want to reciprocate critiques/reviews. I’ve likely passed the halfway point in my life, and time is the only asset that really matters beyond having enough money to meet basic needs. We can never get more time, and it is always ticking away. It is unfair of me to demand more of it from my writer and editor friends than I have available to give to them. I also can’t rely on my family, because they are too close to me and don’t want to hurt my feelings.

Once I made these determinations, I decided if time was my limiting factor, then money was not going to be the thing holding me back as a writer. I’ve been writing plenty, but I have to wait interminably to go back and look at my own work before I can get past the “I JUST WROTE THIS AND IT IS AMAZING” glow and really learning anything from my mistakes. So, I started looking into paid critiques.

I might have been inspired by some anthologies and writing projects from Kickstarter initially. They had rewards like: “Back our book project for $100, and we’ll also do a professional edit on the first 20k words of your manuscript”. I researched some of the authors offering this service and found one (who shall not be named) who had an impressive resume of dealing with many of the hurdles I was trying to overcome in my WIP at the time, The Galaxy and All Her Charms. The Kickstarter method eventually paid off in spades, but it took a LONG TIME. It was about nine months later when I received extremely detailed, thoughtful, and beyond helpful notes and line edits.

Great. In Nine Months I Can Get Good Feedback?

Yes and no. You are indeed welcome to wait the requisite amount of time to gestate a human, but there are better, more direct ways to get this kind of feedback. During my 9-month wait, I ended up hiring another author/editor to do a detailed critique of the first 2500 words of Rue From Ruin. I received notes almost as long as the excerpt I sent for review, and it cost me $55.

So you can go this route, and you can also hire a writing coach (I recommend a couple folks I know: Lauren Sapala and Angie Fenimore. Look ’em up. They’re on the Googles.)

Hiring someone directly can be scary. If you aren’t sure you’re going to like the type of feedback you’ll get, ask them to review a sample for you before you pay. Most folks will agree.

Tightening the feedback loop and getting an earlier view on the kinds of mistakes I’m making in my writing is an immense help. It flattens out my learning curve, and I get over dumb mistakes far earlier. The only trick is having a bit of thick skin (a skill writers need anyway). My critiques have been professional, and even kind, and they also speak their mind.

Take it from a guy who almost always has to learn things the hard way, paying for professional eyes early in your writing process is worth it.

Friday Link Pack 1/29/2016

Just when I thought I’d done something as haphazardly and last-minute as humanly possible — I’m writing a Friday Link Pack post at 10 PM EST on Friday via airplane wifi in extremely turbulent air bound for snowy Salt Lake City after a long week of strenuous vacationing. Oh well, here goes nothing!

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As a reminder, because I know you all read two weeks ago and remember, I’m collaborating on #FLP posts with Drew Gerken, who wrote a great one last week. Check it out over on his blog.

WRITE-ING (Note to self.)

So you want to be a writer…
This is a lovely post by Hugh Howey about writing and what it takes. For example, don’t give up before you’ve started. Credit where credit is due on finding this one: thanks, K.M. Alexander!

How To Write Super Sharable Content For Your Author Blog
Yes, I’m coming back to Lauren Sapala again. I saw this one come up on my list yesterday, and it’s pure gold. I’m going to start following this advice once I start writing again in earnest next month! Did I mention that aside from offering great advice on Twitter and her blog, Lauren is a writing coach for hire?

CREATIVITY/INSPIRATION

Bluescreen Launch Series
One of my favorite Young Adult authors, Dan Wells, has been writing a series of pre-launch posts on his blog for the first book in a new series, Bluescreen. Check this one out and if you haven’t read any of his stuff, give it a go.

SCIENCEY

Sweat Puns Galore!
I could write several. More than several. What I can’t do is make this stuff up. Soon we will have wrist-attached sweat analyzers that can detect things like hydration levels, glucose, sodium, and body temperature. Imagine the applications just for diabetics.

GIF OF THE WEEK

Hoping for a landing less interesting than this:

Friday Link Pack 8/28/2015

Screenshot 2015-08-26 21.22.41

Welcome, visitors from the blog of K. M. Alexander. I’m humbled and honored to post today following K. M.’s tradition of the Friday Link Pack.

To the three regular readers of my blog, you need only know two things:

  1. K. M.’s blog and the novels in his Bell Forging Cycle are fantastic.
  2. I probably won’t be writing regular Link Pack posts because K. M. already does such a great job of it. Enjoy it today!

So without further hullabaloo, I give you first I Write Sci-Fi Friday Link Pack!

Writing Links

Things You Might Not Know About Orwell’s Animal Farm
I was still in elementary school the first time I read Animal Farm. Here are a few things you might not know about it. For example #2 – T.S. Eliot rejected it.

The 2015 Hugo Awards
In case you missed all the drama at WorldCon, this is a full replay of the ceremony. It was a strange, sad year as there were many excellent nominations who probably deserved to win but ended up without a rocket because of the way they were nominated. Check out Dan Wells‘ view on the fallout. It mirrors my own.

The Answers You’re Looking For Are Not On The Internet
Lauren Sapala has a great article I read where she talks about why the writer culture on the Internet is broken. Just a little. She suggests we unplug and read more books. I’ve been doing more of this lately myself, and there is merit in the idea!

Soundtracks For Books Using Booktrack
As I write, I often think about the music that would put me in the mood to write the kind of stories I want to tell. Then I’ll make playlists on Spotify or SoundCloud to get me going when I am struggling for inspiration. A. C. Starrling takes the idea of soundtracks for books one step further in her detailed article over at The Creative Penn.

Random Links

Get And Stay Healthy
As a writer and a programmer, health is a constant concern. I spend way too many hours sitting at a desk every week. Reading through Darya Rose’s bio gave me some new ideas and the community on Summer Tomato is incredible.

A Female Doctor? Yes Please!
Hayley Atwell of Captain America and, of course, the EXCELLENT Marvel’s Agent Carter fame wants to be the next Doctor Who. This needs to happen, world. Make it happen.

If You’ve Ever Wondered Why Wikipedia Is Not Recognized As A Primary Resource
I’m sure this is news to precisely no one, but contentious topics (particularly in the realm of science) tend to change a lot on Wikipedia. Check your sources folks!

Beautiful Bookcases
If you’ve ever seen my office or living room, you would know that I’m a fan of books. My home is covered in them. Walls are filling up with shelves, and shelves are filling up with books. These are some interesting and unique ideas for storing those beautiful dead trees.

GIFs of the Week

I’m a fan of GIFs, so you get TWO this week. The first is my impression of myself posting a Link Pack that K. M.’s readers will read. He does the hard work of creating great content and cultivating followers, and then you all come here and read my post. So thank you all and thanks to K. M.!

iFinishFirst

The second is Tom Cruise (yes it is, look it up if you don’t believe me). This guy is one of the biggest movie stars in the world and yet he isn’t afraid to make a fool of himself. I admire that.

cruisinWithCruise