Planning Your Writing: 3. Seeking Help

Planning Your Writing: 3. Seeking Help
By Norma J Hill (aka Pen and Paper Mama) © 2021

In our previous series for writers, we discussed and provided worksheets for “Self Exploration For Writers,” “Your Writing Life,” and “Author Considerations Beyond Just Writing.” In this new series, “Planning Your Writing,” we will explore:

  1. Research
  2. Target Audience, Genre, and Purpose
  3. Seeking Help
  4. Useful Planning Documents
  5. Style Guides & Manuals
  6. Developing Creativity and Story Skills
  7. Personal Style Sheet

At the end of each post in the series, there is a link to a downloadable and printable PDF copy on which you can write your responses. Put them in a binder or Duotang-type report folder (you can continue to add to your binder from the previous series). Then, periodically along your writing journey, return to your answers, read what you noted previously, and add new thoughts and experiences. Through this process, you’ll end up with a wonderful record of your writer’s journey.

3. Seeking Help

If you’re new to writing, or if you’re writing in a language for which you have some difficulties, or if you are attempting to write in a genre, subject area, or a writing format you have little experience with, you may need to seek some help. What kinds?

Before you start writing, consider getting advice from a writing coach (a tutor and guide who may help with an entire manuscript or with certain aspects of writing and publishing)—or perhaps even get help from a co-author (writes a manuscript together with an author; both are listed as the authors) or ghostwriter (does the writing of a manuscript, based on the author’s notes and guidance related to the story or nonfiction information and research; is not listed as an author). Be sure your helper is experienced in your genre, subject, and/or format. What writing issues do you need help with? Which of these kinds of helpers would be most useful to you?      
If you have already gone ahead and written your first draft, and then realize after reading it through that you have major writing issues, you may wish to seek out one of the above helpers before you carry on with self-editing. Another helper at this point could be a big picture editor, such as a Developmental editor (to help you get organized and started) or a Substantive/Structural editor (to help you with structural issues like plot arc, characterization, and so on). Would any of these helpers be useful for your project? Which one(s)? Why?      

Line editors and proofreaders come later in the writing process, after you have done a first draft, and then self-edited by making revisions yourself, as well as seeking help from other writers (perhaps from your local writers’ group or a writers’ feedback group), and from beta-readers. (You can learn more about all these different kinds of helpers by checking out the articles listed in my website: https://normajhill.com/writing-and-editing-articles/ ). Alternatively, instead of seeking out one of the helpers listed above, you may take a break from your writing and take lessons to improve your writing skills before self-editing. Here are some suggestions to improve your writing craft/skills:

Read widely from successfully written books or publications in your genre, subject area, and/or format. Analyze what has made these writings so well accepted. Consider how your writing skills compare to them. Learn from them and integrate those skills into your own work. What books (or other written materials) have you read that you really admire?      
Study books and resources about writing skills and craft. Borrow a variety of books from your local library and skim through them. Ask the librarian for suggestions (be prepared to explain what you need help with). Choose a few that seem really helpful for your own needs and purchase them to start your own writer’s library. List here the books and resources you want to put in your own library:      
Attend conferences and workshops and/or take courses that focus on your own writing needs. Do some research and list potential conferences, workshops, and courses you would like to take:      
Check out reputable websites and blogs about writing. “Follow” those that you find helpful, and if they have email newsletters, sign up for those, too. Also check out writing groups, either local face-to-face meeting groups and feedback groups, or online groups (there are many good ones on Facebook, for example), and join ones that focus on your kinds of writing needs. Also, try to find a writing mentor/friend who can help and encourage you over time.  

Putting your notes into practice:

Continue to educate yourself. Keep on learning and practicing. Writing is a skill that you should strive to improve on throughout your life. Every time there is something you don’t understand in the writing, editing, and publishing parts of the process, look it up or ask someone who can help you. Don’t expect your helpers to do your writing for you (even a ghostwriter requires you to be involved with providing basic information and direction), and don’t expect your editor(s) to just go ahead and “fix” your writing. Instead, learn from every helper and apply what you learn from them, so that you become a better writer yourself.

PDF LINK: Planning Your Writing: 3. Seeking Help