H is for Help

Letter HHow many times have you heard, Writing is a solitary task.? To a degree it is true. Duet typing is overrated. Getting the Magic 8 Ball out to decide when to ask for help may be to blame for the quote.

We have extensively covered the Mine principle. The story is no less yours if you ask for help. 99.6% of the people you would ask for help are not interested in a byline, editor or contributor credit. Want to get out of beta in only three rounds?

Ask for Help!

Granted, you may want to be particular about who you ask. The person whose email signature contains the copyright symbol is not the one to ask for ideas. Complete strangers are a great source of inspiration. Friends are terrific for what if scenarios for your characters to model. Writing groups make great story solution suggestions.

What’s wrong?

If your book has hit a wall and more than three writing sessions has not provided a wrecking ball, call in troops. Identify the problem.

  • I cannot get my character out of this situation.
  • This is out of character for my character.
  • What happens next?

Story solutions are easy to solve with more heads thinking. Occasionally, our characters get into things we cannot get them out of because we would or could never have gotten into them ourselves. Call your partner in crime, especially if it is your evil twin.

Sometimes, you find your out-of-character character scenario really belongs in another book. In the throes of writing a novel, you are likely never going to say, I think I need to scrap the last 18 pages I wrote. As painful as it may be, someone else telling you is actually easier. You then have carte blanche to hoard the cut piece for another fabulous tale when you finish this one… mayhap, a sequel.

Not Writer’s Block

In self-help, reference and historical books, you may run across a dearth of information. Fictioneers are not off the hook here, though. Character development is based on knowledge of the human psyche. (What would my character do in this situation?) The solution: Help!

One by one, your profiles disappear...

Get away from your screen. Yes, turn off the (laptop/ tablet/ cell/ computer). Go outside. Walk or drive to where other people are. Ask questions. Take notes. Go home and sleep on it.

Despite billions of web pages devoted to millions of topics, spoken language has experience behind it, inflections for veracity, emotions to convey depth. Whether you are making a documentary or creating people, this level of humanity is the difference between a bullet list and a book.

Grammar is unpossible.

Roger GrubbsOne author admitted his novel was one 50,000+ word paragraph with questionable punctuation, horrible spelling and completely made up words when he finished writing it. He has more than 30 titles. How? He has help.

Despite rumors to the contrary, not all authors are Grammar Nazis. In fact, some of the best storytellers could not accurately complete and punctuate a sentence for love nor money.

Knowing and admitting your limitations when it comes to the rules of an unruly language take the first steps toward the help you need to produce a quality book.

Different Resources

help buttonIf you are not already, join the ranks of a writing cooperative. Not all writing groups are created equally. You will need to shop for a good fit. This needs to be the comfortable place you slip into when you are intellectually exhausted and find respite.

Help is not necessarily in a critique group. Those groups more resemble beta readers who are looking for a (at least partially) polished piece to judge. What you are looking for is a group where WIP are welcome while they are still raw.

Some authors choose to pay for a story editor. It is not as cheap as copy editing, which runs $2.25-$3.50 per page. Most story editors will copy edit as they read, but will give you invaluable advice for your investment. Look to pay $50-75 per hour (10 pages per hour) for a good story editor.


The path of most resistance is choosing a co-author for your book. Another example of Choose Wisely, co-authorship is not as easy as it sounds. Authors who begin a book have a harder time accepting story changes a co-author can bring to the table when it deviates from the initial concept of the book.

On the other hand, if you are creating a book which is slightly (or largely) above your pay grade, a co-author can complement your expertise to create a far more balanced book than you can accomplish on your own.

Bottom Line

You do not have to do it all by your lonesome to be the author of a book. Some of the best books you ever read had help.

Have you ever asked for help with a book? Have you ever given it? What stops authors from asking for help?

Hashtags: #AtoZChallenge #help #amwriting

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  1. Getting general input is one thing, getting advise for improving what one is trying to do is another matter …. a step up. Yes – it costs money – then again, financial advisors and lawyers get paid for their expertise. Bottom line – writing is a skill and writers need help, too!
    Frank recently posted..On a LetterMy Profile

    • You would be amazed how many writers (distinct and separate from authors, who also) do not believe in advice. Glad to see you today, Frank.

  2. H is also for Happy. I’m always happy to get all the help I can.
    Bo Lumpkin recently posted..First Samples of Wire ArtMy Profile

  3. The old adage “no question is a stupid question” should fit here, but unfortunately, those who proffer their help, whether for considerations or for $$$ can have a meek and mild author running for the hills. Not from the guidance they get, but the attitudes that come with it. That’s why it is quintessential to find a person, group, etc with whom you already have a trust system in place. There is absolutely no need for any one offering their help to talk down to or belittle the seeker of help. I fear that has turned many away from continuing to seek help, their having been burned once or twice.
    And on the other side, authors need to not identify so much with their work, that when it is criticized, the author takes it personally.
    I encourage those on the offering help side of things to keep in mind how much a kindness can inspire and how much an insult can hurt.
    Because, as Red says, we are, none of us, alone.
    Fortunately, Red has a good model in place, for support, encouragement and even ideas on plot and characters with the RP family.
    I am constantly amazed at the brainstorming sessions that begin with the germ of an idea, and before you know it you’ve nailed down a title, a cover and even jackback and promo phraseology. Boom!

    BuddhaKat recently posted..H is for… HOT LIPSMy Profile

    • We tend not to stand still. That many creative people in one room and away we go. I am seriously hoping there will be more who come even just for the advice. xxx

  4. I love my beta-readers.
    Red Tash recently posted..I don’t know what that is, but I’d be willing to…My Profile

    • Hello!!! It is so good to see you! I did a whole post about beta readers. Mine have always been invaluable. I have gotten some of the best advice from beta readers. *happy dance* xxx

  5. Turn off the computer? Go out and talk to real people? You must be mad!
    Binky recently posted..Life’s ExpectationsMy Profile

  6. Sure, I ask for help but it’s difficult. Lots of writers are shy, introverted creatures.

    I believe a writer must learn to take some good constructive criticism. On the other hand, reading is subjective, where does that leave the writer?

    These posts are illuminating, Red.
    Tess Kann recently posted..Flash in the Pan – ReservationsMy Profile

    • If you built a house, would you have an inspector make sure it is sound? Why then do writers feel their profession should be exempt from standards to the point “as good as I can do it” is sufficient to house their livelihoods? I am not prone to mollycoddling the emotional immaturity of writers squatting over ugly hatchlings quivering in terror asking for help in raising them would reveal fundamental unpreparedness for parenting.

      The subjective nature of readers is a job hazard.

      If it sounds harsh, it is.

  7. I’m still pretty much a beginner at all this! 🙂

    I don’t ask for help when I need it most of the time for fear of getting yelled at when I do.

    The last thing I need is burning ears!!! 🙁

    Love and hugs!

    Prenin recently posted..Tuesday – Maggie dies.My Profile

    • I would suggest practicing your stance or listening while filtering out the theatrics. Accepting judgment is the only way the yelling bothers anyone.

  8. Here is the problem, many of those who write believe they tread a path where others are unable to follow.


    To suggest they might have a problem in their opus, well it is to insult their baby which we all know could not possibly be ugly.

    Asking for help? Why for?

    As always my sister you hit the nail and drive it home in one swing. Now, if only others would listen.
    Valentine Logar recently posted..Overrated, Certainly NotMy Profile

    • Based on the contents of the SIB, it is unlikely. Mayhap, a folly will be born of this.

  9. My local writers’ group gave me lots of advice on the novels (4 years’ worth!), and stalwart Zoetrope members did the same on the script versions (ditto). I printed out their notes and checked off the parts I agreed with and used. Advice is best taken when the advisor points out the problem and lets the writer solve it. Kinda like when I was teaching. I had to learn not to solve problems for them.

    • In general, I agree with the point out the faults approach to critique as I feel offering my solution would compromise the style of the author (in most cases). On the flip side, I see an inordinate number of manuscripts where the author has no idea how to correct the issues because of the pervasive belief there can be nothing wrong with a complete fabrication.

      • Trial and error. We learn best by doing, right?I can remember many instances when I felt (knew!) something wasn’t quite right, but every time I let whatever it was slide, someone would kindly punch a hole right in that spot. It made me think through what could be the matter and consequently, how to fix it.

        • It strengthens your story line to have others to support your need to reinforce the weaker spots. My focus with this post is to get more to try. Try asking for help.

  10. “I cannot get my character out of this situation.”

    One way is to think of things the character would NOT do and sometimes it inspires you
    Bearman Cartoons recently posted..Less Hair – More Head TshirtMy Profile

    • I tend to chastises my characters and show them the book outline. When I ask if they would like this behavior reflected on their performance reviews, they decide to straighten up.


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