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. There is no shame in asking for help regardless of the situation and if getting outdoors helps to revitalise the juices for writing characters into or out of a script then all the better, after all nobody wants the lacklustre version of a book that with help could be something extraordinary.

    Have a funtastic Friday Red 🙂 xxx

    • I wish more people would think that way. I see so many who are unwilling to ask for help. The real shame is the resultant situation which could have been avoided.

      • Yes I totally agree with you Red 🙂

        I have just collected the FTP words for this quarter and will be writing some as early as this next week and trying to get on the right page with these A to Z’s 🙂 lol

        Have fun now or else? 😉 xxxx

        • I am. I have just posted a fabbo post (IMNSHO) and am off to play with the kiddles for a bit. We are playing games today, with and without the dogs. 😉

  2. Thank you for the pep talk and excellent suggestions Red! 😀

    • So glad to see you today, Linda. Do you have a link to your blog in the Green Room?

  3. What stops them? I would guess pride and control. I know if I am writing something I don’t think to ask for help, except for the editing portion. I do get ideas from all over the place, but I never ask for help getting the ideas.
    Derek Mansker recently posted..Now is not the time to get lazy with your kids!My Profile

    • You may well not need it. I do not often need help with the idea process, but ask anyway. It helps me keep some of my characters from ending up on the floor.

  4. Very interesting, AGAIN!’

    Quality articles, Red.
    Noeleen recently posted..Drunk Woman Passed Out On The Couch? What Happens Next?My Profile

  5. I need help in keeping up with the fantastic posts my Blog friends write, especially as I like to visit everyone in my network. 🙂

    On a serious note, there’s no shame in the game.
    I know I will have to be asking for assistance in the near future.
    I do have a few reservations, concerning my:-

    Copyright protection, will my property be safe and looked after?
    What happens if the book is placed into the wrong hands at too early a stage before publication?
    Will the “help” provided come from individuals with the right agenda?

    I tend to be more of a glass half-full optimistic person.
    I believe I will have the right help, from the right people at the right time.
    I’m also hoping I have the money in place to pay for that help, when needed. 😉
    Phil recently posted..Matrimonial TestimonialsMy Profile

    • Educating yourself on the process will help you stay out of the hands of those who have the wrong intentions. While not entirely foolproof, it is a great place to begin. Copyright protection is both overrated and undervalued. Yes, the two terms are not mutually exclusive. Filing for a copyright of artistic work is hardly worth the effort. Prudence is a far more economical solution. As well, the law does not favor the copyright holder except in business applications. It has not determined art to be a business.

  6. Barb

     /  May 10, 2013

    I hate to ask for help, until I have the plot in mind. There have been a couple of times the “suggestions” were going down a path I wasn’t interested in. So I tend to wait until I have a good feel of the story before seeking help. I think it’s a control thing.
    And you’re absolutely right. I participated in manuscript brainstorming/fixing in a formal way and it has yielded great results. Only about 10% of the ideas were usable, but we would’ve never reached those ideas without using the stepping stones of each others’ ideas.
    Great suggestions, Red

    • Great to see you, stranger. I hope you have not returned to the mist. I have rarely used direct ideas, but I will take a single element and blow it into a string of chapters… the same way I do when I pick the elements from my general surroundings. I ask for help whenever I have a fork in the story. So far, it is leading to another book I never planned in the beginning. xxx

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