Posts Tagged ‘Jennifer Wilson’

The Best Writing Software

9 Writing Tools for Authors to Create, Organize, and Edit

By: Jennifer Wilson

Finding the software that works best for you is a great debate amongst writers. There are a lot of options, and none are wrong. But some are better than others.

I use a whole slew of software during my process including Plottr for scheming, Scrivener for writing, ProWritingAid and Grammarly for editing and then Word for sending to editors/betas. AND there’s even more options out there. It can be overwhelming, so I’m breaking down some of the top programs for you—what they do, how much they cost and their pros/cons.

Plotting Software:

Plottr software image

Plottr – Outline faster, plot smarter, and turbocharge your productivity today with the #1 visual book planning software for writers.

  • Outline plot
  • Create Story Bible
  • Create notes on Character and Places
  • Attach notes to plot points
  • Simple click and drag interface
  • Starter templates
  • Ongoing updates and support

Cost: 30 Day Free Trial – $25 one-time payment for desktop app

Pros:

  • Works with Mac & PC
  • Easy to use
  • Lots of tutorials
  • Good for visual thinkers
  • Exports into Scrivener and Word

Cons:

  • Can’t print the screen
  • Growing pains of new software – glitches happen

Scapple

Scapple – It’s a virtual sheet of paper that lets you make notes anywhere and connect them using lines or arrows.

  • Brain storming focused
  • Write loose notes
  • Connect ideas
  • Tidy thoughts as they progress

Cost: 30 Day Free Trial – $18 one-time payment for desktop

Pros:

  • Works with Mac & PC
  • Easy to use
  • Good for free thought
  • Can import images and text files
  • Good for visual thinkers
  • Can drag notes into Scrivener

Cons:

  • Requires many steps to reformat notes
  • Not structured
  • No plotting templates
  • Doesn’t export to other writing programs

Writing Software:

Word screenshot

Word – Word helps you put your best words forward – anytime, anywhere and with anyone. Basic writing software.

  • Formatting tools
  • Word count
  • Built-in editor
  • Desktop and App versions
  • Built-in thesaurus
  • Auto-save & OneDrive cloud sync
  • Read Aloud feature
  • Tracks changes

Cost: Free Browser option – $69 Year for desktop – $139.99 one-time purchase for desktop

Pros:

  • Works with Mac & PC
  • Most people are familiar with it
  • Best built-in editor
  • Can track changes when sent to editors

Cons:

  • Hard to navigate chapters – one massive file or lots of little ones
  • No plotting options
  • No note-taking storage
  • Manuscript templates are lacking
  • Export options very limited

Scrivener screenshot

Scrivener – Scrivener is the go-to app for writers of all kinds, used every day by best-selling novelists, screenwriters, non-fiction writers, students, academics, lawyers, journalists, translators and more.

  • Structure writing by Chapters and Scenes
  • Create Notecards
  • Store project notes and images
  • Basic formatting tools for writing
  • Footnote support – Non-Fiction
  • Word count
  • Basic editor
  • Desktop and App versions
  • Templates
  • Set and Track Goals
  • Import from Word
  • Export to Word, PDF, Epub, Kindle, +more
  • Auto-save & Dropbox sync

Cost: 30 Day Free Trial – $49 one-time payment for desktop – $19.99 one-time payment for iOS Apps –  $80 one-time payment for bundle

Pros:

  • Works with Mac & PC
  • Dropbox cloud syncing prevents lost work or multiple versions
  • Customizable view
  • Stores entire project in one place
  • Export to Epub & Kindle
  • Lots of tutorial videos
  • Updates are free

Cons:

  • Very simple editing capabilities
  • Stiff learning curve
  • Not the most user-friendly interface

Wavemaker screenshot

Wavemaker – Easily structure your book into chapters, scenes, make notes and shuffle them around easily.

  • Structure writing by Chapters and Scenes
  • Create color-coded Notecards
  • Store project notes and images
  • Basic formatting tools for writing
  • Word count
  • Basic editor
  • Export to Word & PDF

Cost: Free

Pros:

  • FREE!
  • Makes navigating your manuscript much easier
  • Can connect to Google Drive
  • Good tutorial videos

Cons:

  • Only works in Chrome – can be used offline with extension download
  • Very simple editing capabilities
  • Still in growth phase so tech glitches happen
  • Must manually sync files with cloud storage – if you forget to sync and computer crashes… get the tissue box!
  • With multiple device access – you can accidently create multiple versions of the same file if you forget to sync
  • Not super intuitive software

SmartEdit Writer (was Atomic Scribbler)

SmartEdit Writer – (was Atomic Scribbler) free software to plan your novel, prepare and maintain research material, write your novel scene by scene and edit chapter by chapter in a modern Windows-ish application.

  • Structure writing by Chapters and Scenes
  • Store project notes in same file with images
  • Word-like formatting tools
  • Tracks daily word counts
  • Basic editor
  • Desktop program
  • Import/Export Word docs

Cost: Free

Pros:

  • FREE!
  • Makes navigating your manuscript much easier
  • Has a similar look and feel to Microsoft Word
  • Auto saves & backups

Cons:

  • PC only
  • Very simple editing capabilities
  • Window is visually cluttered
  • Save button hard to find
  • Opens a lot of extra windows to view notes and images
  • Not a lot of tutorial videos

Editing Software:

Author Note: None of these programs catch everything. For the best results, use several free versions and one paid option. Also, not all proposed edits are correct, so make sure to read all suggestions with your human brain before going click change crazy.


Hemingway App

Hemingway AppThe online version of Hemingway Editor is completely free. The creators have indicated they intend to keep it this way.

  • Critical grammar and spelling checks
  • Readability
  • Passive voice
  • Hard to read sentences
  • Word count

Cost: Free online – $19.99 one-time payment for desktop

Pros:

  • FREE!
  • Give Readability score
  • Highlights different issues by color code

Cons:

  • Very simple editing capabilities
  • Browser editing a little glitchy
  • Not the most user-friendly interface
  • Doesn’t catch everything

ProWritingAid

ProWritingAidProWritingAid is the only platform that offers world-class grammar and style checking combined with more in-depth reports to help you strengthen your writing.

Reports include:

  • Writing Style
  • Grammar
  • Overused Words
  • Clichés and Redundancies
  • Sticky Sentence
  • Readability
  • Repetitive Words/Phrases
  • Sentence Length
  • Pronoun Report
  • Transition Report
  • Pacing Check
  • Dialogue Tags Check
  • Plagiarism + more!

Cost: Free Trial – $20 Monthly – $79.00 Yearly  – $299 Lifetime

Pros:

  • Most in-depth analysis available
  • Lifetime membership with constant updates
  • Runs directly in Word and Scrivener

Cons:

  • Cost, but lifetime worth it for career writers
  • Can crash computer (I suggest scanning one chapter at a time to avoid this)
  • Doesn’t catch everything

Grammarly

Grammarly – Grammarly Premium goes beyond grammar to help you ensure that everything you write is clear, engaging, and professional.

  • Critical grammar and spelling checks
  • Conciseness
  • Readability
  • Vocabulary enhancement suggestions
  • Genre-specific writing style checks
  • Plagiarism detector

Cost:  Free version (base grammar and spelling only) – $29.95 Monthly –  $59.95 Quarterly –  $139.95 Yearly

Pros:

  • Browser extensions
  • Desktop and app options available
  • Stores all writing in backup cloud
  • Can adjust tone of voice to your writing style

Cons:

  • Only integrates with Word and only on Windows
  • Cost – not cheap long-term
  • Free version very limited
  • Doesn’t catch everything

Editors Note: Writing from the Peak will take a closer look at ProWritingAid and Grammarly next week. Check back then!


Jennifer Wilson

Jennifer Wilson is the #1 Amazon bestselling author of the young adult New World Series. The gripping trilogy spans RisingAshes, and Inferno. Jennifer is constantly on the move, always working on her next story line and drinking way too much coffee. When not writing, she is enjoying life in Colorado, rock climbing, camping, exploring new foods, playing with her golden retriever, Duke, and sharing life with her heroically supportive hubby. You can connect and nerd out with Jennifer on FacebookInstagramTwitter and on her website.

Interview with Sandra Murphy

The Voice Mama

By: Jennifer Wilson

Sandra Murphy
Sandra Murphy – AKA The Voice Mama

Audiobooks are a fast growing staple of the literary world. I myself devour at least three audiobooks a month. Readers still love the hardy feel and ink-stained smell of a good tome, but with streaming services, booming audiobooks are on the rise. They ease long drives, are great when walking the dog, out for a run or even while cooking. Especially now, as we are all stuck inside, audiobooks are a great escape, allowing people to still be productive while listening to an amazing story.

And it’s not just the Big Five publishers taking advantage of this growing trend either. With the launch of ACX, indie writers are now joining the game without breaking the bank. But this is a whole new construct from what we writers are used to, so I’m pulling in expert Sandra Murphy —AKA The Voice Mama—to dish on everything from her process to resources to how to find the right talent for your book.

Q: Sandra, it’s wonderful getting to connect with you today. Thanks so much for taking the time. First and foremost, how are you doing in this new world we’re all adjusting to?

A: My pleasure! The biggest change is that there is no quiet time to narrate which I would usually have when my husband was at work and the children in school.  With the entire family home, we’ve instituted quiet hours when I record.  I do my best to stick to that time frame and we converge as a family and make plenty of noise when I’m done.

Q: Tell me, what do you love most about narrating audiobooks?

A:  I get to play ALL the characters!!  There is no type casting in audiobook narration.  As an actor, it’s so freeing to play fairies, ogres, Mexican hit men, Ukrainian circus performers – roles I would never be cast in on stage or on camera. 

Q: Do you have a ritual or routine you do before sitting down to record the audio (such as vocal exercises or donning your lucky unwashed socks)?

A:  Pre COVID-19, I’d head to the gym in the morning which would function to wake up my body, release tension, and get me in touch with my breath.  After doing my vocal warm-ups and before heading into the studio, I always make a cup of apple cider vinegar and honey “tea” to have with me in the booth, which helps clear mouth congestion.

Q: What genres will you always say no or yes to, and why?

A:  I will always say yes to books in the mystery genre – from cozy mysteries to police procedurals to thrillers – if there’s a dead body, I’m interested.  I’m an active member of Sisters in Crime Colorado and love to attend events like “Night with a Coroner” or tour the CBI building to increase my understanding of the genre.

I will always say no to Erotica.

Q: What are some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

A:  I love literature and good writing is what really pulls me into a project. 

The Flats Junction series by Sara Dahmen is my first venture into historical fiction.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed narrating this series.  In TINSMITH 1865, Marie Kotlarczyk must learn to become a female tinsmith in the Dakota Territories.  In WIDOW 1881, Jane Weber, a proper Boston widow, must choose how she will truly reinvent herself and where she belongs.  Two vastly different female protagonists, two different time periods, but both stories take place in the same frontier town of Flats Junction.


The character development, character arcs, and conflicts in this series are masterful. 

Q: A lot of authors don’t realize how long it takes to get their book babies into audio format. Can you talk about how much time it takes to produce an audiobook and how that breaks out? (ie prep, studio time, editing…)  

A:  The quick answer is 6-8 weeks.  It takes roughly 8 hours of time – prepping, recording, editing, mastering – per finished hour of audio to produce an audiobook.  So, for a 93,000 word book, which would be a 10 hour audiobook, 80 hours of time went into producing the finished product.

Q: When selecting a narrator, what are the top 3 things an author should do?

A:  Define the Voice of Your Brand:  When you select an audiobook narrator, you are choosing the voice of your brand.  When talking about this topic, I like to give the example of the James Bond movies.  Many different actors have played this role and they all bring something different to the character.  Each narrator will bring something different to your audiobook.  You know what your brand looks like since you worked with a cover artist to create your book cover.  What does your brand sound like?  Sophisticated, gravelly, prim, urban, etc.  Need guidance?  Check out audiobooks from other authors in your genre.  If you can find one or two words that describe of the overall narrative tone you are looking for, it will help narrow down your search for the right narrator.

Do Your Research: Do your research and listen to the narrator’s audiobook samples.  Do you like what you hear?  Check their websites and social media presence.  Will they be a good business partner?  How are their reviews?

Trust the Creative Process:  There is a point when the baton of creativity is passed from author to narrator.  If you’ve done your research and found the voice of your brand, trust the audiobook narrator to bring their unique voice and creative vision to your work.  Trust me—the voices will NOT sound like the ones in your head, no matter whom you choose.  If you’ve chosen your creative partner correctly, they will honor your characters and your writing.  You might even be pleasantly surprised to hear a different approach to your work.

Q: Where are the best places for an author to connect with a quality narrator?

A:  If you are traditionally published and like a particular narrator, you can make a recommendation to the publisher.

If you are independently published, you’ll be looking on sites like ACX, Findaway Voices, or Spoken Realms for narrators.  Listen to samples, look at reviews, check social media feeds, visit websites to ascertain a narrator’s body of work.  Membership to the Association of Audiobook Publishers is a good indicator the narrator is committed to the audiobook narration profession. 

If you listen to a lot of audiobooks and are a fan of a particular narrator, you can reach out to them and ask if they would be interested in narrating your work.

Q: How do audiobook narrators and directors decide what kind of tone to use for each character? 

A:  All of the clues to what the character should sound like are in the book.  In THE WHISPERING PINES MYSTERY series by Shawn McGuire, the character of Morgan Barlow always takes the protagonist by the arm when she wants to talk with her.  I stood in the booth with my arm in a similar manner to what was described in the book and when I said Morgan’s lines, her voice just naturally came.

Q: How do you connect with each character, theme, and emotion?

A:  One of my favorite characters is the cantankerous Granny Apples of THE GRANNY APPLES MYSTERY series by Sue Ann Jaffarian.  This character reminded me of Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies, so I used that as a jumping off point to create her voice.  Granny Apples has a certain tilt to her head, facial expression, and twang for her voice to come out just right.  Her spitfire personality is very fun to narrate but I’m glad people can’t see what I look like when I do it.

Q: Haha! Understandable, I make similar expressions when writing. If in a coffee shop, I probably look crazy. What is it like reading different characters’ dialogue lines?

A:  It’s just two people talking to each other so you switch between voices.

Q: Do you ever laugh at yourself as you’re testing out voices?

A:  Occasionally, a voice comes out that totally doesn’t work and I have to start over.

Q: As a professional voice actor are there special techniques you use to care for and condition your voice? 

A:  Hydration.  Sleep.  Wellness care.  I drink a lot of water to make sure I’m hydrated – it makes a huge difference in your voice.  Getting 8+ hours of sleep is essential as is taking very good care of yourself.  I usually wear a scarf in crisp weather since the common cold can take my voice out of commission for a good 6 weeks.  That’s a disaster.

Q: What audiobook do you love to listen to and what about that narration makes it special?

A:  Johnny Heller is one of my favorite audiobook narrators because of his creativity and commitment to any project.  His narration of the evil genius guinea pig, Gizmo, in the WEDGIE & GIZMO series by Suzanne Selfors always lifts my heart and makes me smile.

Q: What advice would you give someone who wants to become an audiobook narrator?

A:  Audiobook narration is first and foremost an acting profession.  Just like acting for stage or film, one should start by taking acting and improv classes.  The more you understand the foundations of acting and how to break down a scene, the more successful you will be as an audiobook narrator.

Q: Okay final and most important question! Where can our readers find you and your work?

A: On my website at www.voicemama.com you can sign up for my newsletter or type my name in the Audible search engine to find my audiobooks.

Sandra Murphy, the Voice Mama, is an award-winning audiobook narrator known for her compelling, sophisticated narration and sarcastic female protagonists.  Fictional characters include an uptight lisping beaver, Ukrainian circus performer, Polish settler, snarky female detective, and a whole host of Mexican hit men.  Non-fiction narration includes parenting and women in leadership titles.   Sandra provides entertaining workshops on audiobooks for self-published authors. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram


Jennifer Wilson

Jennifer Wilson is the #1 Amazon bestselling author of the young adult New World Series. The gripping trilogy spans RisingAshes, and Inferno. Jennifer is constantly on the move, always working on her next story line and drinking way too much coffee. When not writing, she is enjoying life in Colorado, rock climbing, camping, exploring new foods, playing with her golden retriever, Duke, and sharing life with her heroically supportive hubby. You can connect and nerd out with Jennifer on FacebookInstagramTwitter and on her website.

Conference Under Quarantine…

We’re Bringing the Resources To You!

By: Jennifer Wilson

There is no denying the heartache felt around the world in this unexpected climate. On a global level, we are experiencing a full-blown pandemic. With public health in mind, quarantines have continued to spread, and many doors have closed. It’s been a whirlwind of emotions. Or as we in YA like to say – “ALL the feels.”

Resources that will inspire you to keep writing, keep pitching, and keep going.

But there is a proverbial silver lining. While we practice physical social distancing, the World Wide Web has allowed us to be alone together. Not to mention the plethora of information it puts at our constantly typing fingertips.

Let’s get real, for all the good content out there, there’s a bazillion more not-so-great resources to weed out. So, we’re doing it for you and bringing conference to your desktop.

Now, enough of my words—let’s check out what PPW and the 2020 guests, staff, and colleagues have to share:

PPW Presents:

April 2020 Write Drunk, Edit Sober: Presented ONLINE Apr 08, 2020 — 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM

Pitch Your Book: Loglines, Synopses and Queries that Hook & Hold April 11, 2020 — presented by; Chris Mandeville

Write Brain: Zen and the Art of Parody April 21, 2020 — presented by; R.J. Rowley

Pitching:

How To Pitch Your Manuscript – Chris Mandeville, Author

Write From the Seed – James Persichetti, Lost Hat Editorial Services

Don’t Go Crazy with Your Comps – Angie Hodapp, Director of Literary Development at Nelson Literary Agency

Start Here: How to Write a Book Proposal (Non-fiction) – Jane Friedman, Author & Editor

Publishing:

25 Steps to Being a Traditionally Published Author – Delilah S. Dawson, NY Time Bestselling Author

Indie vs Traditional – Which Would You Choose? – Jennifer Lovett, founder of Writer Nation

Writing Skills:

15 Blood-spattered Tips for Writing Violence – Delilah S. Dawson, NY Time Bestselling Author

Electrifying Emotion – James Persichetti, Lost Hat Editorial Services & David R Slayton, Author

8 Ways to Make Your Characters Sound Distinctive – Laura DiSilverio, national bestselling and award-winning author

Writing from an Editor’s Perspective Podcast – Tom Hoeler, Associate Editor at Del Rey Books

Successful Queries Start with Honing Your Craft – Jennifer Wilson, Author

Juggling Multiple Projects – Catherine Dilts, Author

Character Profiling — Are You Missing the Spark? – K.J. Scrim, Writer & Managing Editor of the PPW Blog

How to Structure Your Novel: Story Arc and Character Arc – Jason Henry Evans, Author

Author Brand & Marketing:

Effective Social Media Marketing – Claire McKinney, founder and CEO of Claire McKinney PR, LLC and Plum Bay Publishing, LLC.

Author Branding – How Are You Different? – Jennifer Lovett, founder of Writer Nation

How’s Your #Hashtag Game? – Jennifer Lovett, founder of Writer Nation

Do it Yourself Book Marketing – Jason Evans, Author

Defining Your Author Brand – Sandra Beckwith, Author

Connect with other writers online:

Facebook, Facebook, Facebook – No joke! Use the Google machine to look up “Facebook writers groups for + your genre.” You will be shocked by how many groups are out there. Start with Pikes Peak Writers! (FREE!!)

Manuscript AcademyStill want to take classes, but quarantine got you locked down? The Manuscript Academy offers online courses. Brace yourself, it’s a bit pricey for us starving writers. But their free podcast has great insights and they occasionally host free webinars. ($49 – $69 per month)

NaNoWriMo – Writing a novel alone can be difficult, even for seasoned writers. NaNoWriMo helps you track your progress, set milestones, connect with other writers in a vast community, and participate in events that are designed to make sure you finish your novel. Oh, and best of all, it’s free! (FREE!!)

Pitch Wars – Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions on how to make the manuscript shine for an agent showcase. (FREE!!)

Writers Club Live – Author, ghostwriter, and book coach Christine Whitmarsh hosts live virtual workshops focusing on the art and science of writing your book. She’s even offering structured sessions to provide ample collaboration and quiet work time at a fair cost. ($19 – $29 per month)

Craft books?

Why, yes please! (PS many local book stores are delivering – don’t forget to support them too!)

The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience – Chuck Wendig

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

On Writing by Stephen King

The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults by 

Cheryl B. Klein

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel – by Jessica Brody

True to our 2019 conference slogan “It takes a tribe,” now more than ever, my friends, is the time to #SupportEachOther. I hope these resources inspire you to keep writing, keep pitching and keep going. Share these articles with your friends and remember to thank the contributors on social media.

It’s okay to lament the cancellation of the 2020 Pikes Peak Writers Conference. It’s not often we introverts want to come out and play. Even though there will be no hugging of old friends or toasting a long day over evening drinks this year, PPWC is still here to help you further your writing skills and connect with other writers in a safe way.

Stay healthy. Stay home. Stay supportive.

For the latest news on the Coronavirus, please refer to CDC.gov.


Jennifer Wilson

Jennifer Wilson is the #1 Amazon bestselling author of the young adult New World Series. The gripping trilogy spans RisingAshes, and Inferno. Jennifer is constantly on the move, always working on her next story line and drinking way too much coffee. When not writing, she is enjoying life in Colorado, rock climbing, camping, exploring new foods, playing with her golden retriever, Duke, and sharing life with her heroically supportive hubby. You can connect and nerd out with Jennifer on FacebookInstagramTwitter and on her website.

Successful Queries Start with Honing Your Craft

By: Jennifer Wilson

Querying can bring on a whole slew of sleepless nights, obsessive inbox refreshing and a soul-crushing anxiety of the word “No”. While navigating the social media trenches of the querying process, the biggest question I see is “How do I make my work stand out?”

The bad news is there is no magical button. A unicorn is not going to trot in, tap its horn on your manuscript and make it a must-have best-seller that agents are going to fight over. But the good news is unlike Katniss Everdeen, you can stack the odds in your favor. And that starts with honing your craft and your manuscript.

Say you finished your final chapter last night, huzzah! Now you can write a quick query letter and start emailing agents tomorrow, right? That’s a hard no. Like I will slap your hands off the keyboard kind of no. So what are the steps to help hone your craft? To get an agent? To be successful? Read on, friends. Read on.

Step one: Research standard word counts for your genre

If you haven’t done this already, do it now! For the planners this is an easy feat, but for us pantsers the struggle is real. We don’t always like to plan ahead, but in this case, it’s a must.

Writing with word counts in mind is important for a multitude of reasons. #1 is that many agents will pass immediately if your word count is too far below or above industry standards. Sarah Nicolas of Pitch Wars has an excellent reference page for genre word counts here.

Step two: Write and finish your novel

This is obviously the most important step. You can’t query a project that’s not complete. Once done, make sure to stop and celebrate! You just finished a manuscript which is a huge feat in itself. So be proud, do a little dance and toast with your emotional support team.

Step three: Self-editing is fun! Not really… but do it anyway

Before you hand your work over to an editor or beta-readers. Go over it yourself! It should go without saying, but no first draft is ever amazing. From manuscripts to query letters to elevator pitches – if you’re not slightly ashamed of your first drafts by the end of editing, you’re not doing it right.

When self-editing, it’s crazy easy to overlook spelling errors, odd phrasing and  descriptions. But there are a few tricks to help hone your editing skills.

The first editing trick is to change your font. Your eyes have grown accustomed to the shapes of your current lettering, and by changing the font your brain will fire on to process the new lettering and catch more errors.

Next, study and fill out the same Beta Reader Questionnaire that you will give to your critique partners. This will prompt you to think like a reader and hopefully catch a few things you may not have thought about before.

Lastly, read out loud or have an auto-reader read to you. Your ears will pick up more than your eyes did. 

Note that some writers prefer to have ongoing feedback as they write, while others like to finish their entire project before handing it over to beta readers. Both are fine! But either way, self-edit before handing your work to someone else.

Step four: Get outsider feedback

Cultivate the right group of beta readers. This is your book baby you’re handing off, so trust is a must. Also, make sure they’re your target market. Aunt Sally may be a voracious reader, but if she only devours Erotic Fantasy, her feedback on your Middle-Grade Historical Fiction isn’t going to be as relevant as your 11-year-old nephew’s. And sadly, no “yes men”. It always feels good to hear how amazing you are and cheerleaders are important when you’re writing. But when it comes to critique time, you want people that are going to push you and call out the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Make sure they review your Beta Reader Questionnaire before your manuscript. (Here’s my favorite questionnaire!) This helps them shift from the pleasure reader mindset to a beta reader mindset. Make sure they fill it out or better yet, go over it with them. I like to get my betas together for drinks and dive in as a group. It spurs great conversations and also highlights sticky areas in my writing.

You won’t always like what you hear, so it’s vital to recognize the difference between critique and criticism. Remember, your betas genuinely want you to succeed, so listen to their thoughts. You may find their dislike of a character is because he needs to evoke more emotions, or that your favorite scene isn’t really as necessary as you thought in advancing the plot. A huge part of honing your craft during feedback is growing a thick skin. I promise this will serve you well throughout your writing career.

At the end of the day, don’t forget the number one rule of reader feedback – this is your story. If editor or beta feedback doesn’t jive with your storyline, it’s okay to ignore it. You don’t have to change a character’s name because someone didn’t know how to pronounce it or rewrite your entire plot to appease one person. Look for the overall sweeping themes. If multiple readers were confused by the same chapter, it probably needs reworking. 

Step five: The craft of the query

Truth? This is a whole other can of blog post worms for another day. But basically, repeat steps one – four in query form. Do your research. Know what agents represent your genre and follow their submission requirements to the letter. Write an amazing query – PPW has free classes on this regularly *wink wink* — and then begin the edit and critique process of your letter.

So no unicorn, but it’s a step toward success. If you’re putting your best work forward, you’re already floating to the top of those query slush piles.

Writing is not easy. And anyone who tells you differently is lying. So say this with me. Out loud. Right now. “My best writing will come from hard work.” Now commit to that mantra. Whether you’re striving to be a New York Times Best Selling Author or simply want to self-publish, your readers deserve the best version of your book and so do you.

Want a mini craft-honing practice you can do right now? You got it! Pick up your favorite book and go to your favorite scene. Now, read it with analytical eyes. Why did you love this part? How did it make you feel? What sentence structures give you the warm fuzzies? How can you replicate those feeling when telling your own story? It goes without saying to never, never plagiarize another writer’s words, but recognizing analytically what it was in their phrasing that reached you as a fan will ultimately help polish your voice to reach fans of your own.


Jennifer Wilson

Jennifer Wilson is the #1 Amazon bestselling author of the young adult New World Series. The gripping trilogy spans RisingAshes, and InfernoJennifer is constantly on the move, always working on her next storyline and drinking way too much coffee. When not writing, she is enjoying life in Colorado, rock climbing, camping, exploring new foods, playing with her golden retriever, Duke, and sharing life with her heroically supportive hubby. You can connect and nerd out with Jennifer on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and on her website.