5 Writer Challenges

Have you ever questioned the old proverb “misery loves company”? How in the world do you feel better when someone else feels as poorly as you do?

Because you’re human.

Humans have an innate need for social connection and often seek what is familiar. We seek ways to alleviate our feelings, and the best way to do that is by finding people who understand.

Writing is a lonely business. For the most part, writers spend hours on end by themselves. We seek other writers who understand our challenges relating to our writing process.

All writers have their strengths and weaknesses. Let’s take a look at 5 ways writers struggle with their work, and the solutions.

5 Writer Challenges

  • Plot Development
  • Time Management
  • Characters
  • Dialogue
  • Perfectionism

Plot Development

Photo by You X Ventures

Writers are finding several issues accompanying their plots. Some find their entire books happening in the first few pages. They have no idea how to slow it down enough to fill up the rest of their books. Some struggle with certain parts of the story, such as a dragging middle. Some find their entire book is dragging.


If you struggle with Dramatic Structure, pick a structure and get familiar with it. Plot your points and base the rest of your work around those. You don’t have to get detailed with plotting, but even I, a pantser, do minimal plotting. My work is better for it.

If you find episodic narrative in your work, cut it. That means unless the day-to-day small stuff is important to plot, delete it from your story. This usually helps with an entire book dragging. What also helps is looking at how many subplots you have. While there is no exact formula for how many subplots you can have, if it doesn’t enhance your plot, cut it. You’ll find there may be things your characters do that don’t enhance your plot. Cut those, too, no matter how much you love them.

If you find your middle dragging, divide it into two sections, making your 3-act structure a 4-act structure. It’ll help you see things more clearly. This is another place where you can cut what doesn’t enhance the plot.

If you find your entire book happening in a few scenes, consider making it a short story or flash fiction piece. Some work isn’t meant to be a full-length novel. Nothing wrong with that.

Time Management

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Perhaps you, like many writers, find yourself surfing the web while it’s product time. Maybe you’re on day 20 of research without having written a single word. Or, maybe you can’t stop editing what you do write, getting you very, very, very slowly to the end of your work. Then, you have straight-up procrastination.


The best solutions I can offer you for time management comes as a three-fold. One: Limit your distractions. Turn off the internet if you have to.

Two: When you’re supposed to be writing, then write. I know, if it were that easy, time management wouldn’t be a thing. Even if you only can fit in ten minutes, trust that the world won’t (probably) fall apart in that time, and everything else can wait. Tell your brain there is a time and place for all other thoughts, but this isn’t that time. Yes, this takes practice.

Three: Forgive yourself for wasting time. If you’re hard on yourself, you’ll feel guilty. Guilt turns off your creative brain. You literally have no time for guilt. Just get yourself back on track.

As for too much editing and research, know that your story won’t be perfect the first couple drafts. Try to relax and just tell the story you’d tell your friends. Research is super fun, and for me, it lasts the entire writing process. How I navigate seemingly endless research is to use placeholders and leave comments to myself while focused on writing.

Procrastinating…it’s truly an art. It doesn’t make you lazy to procrastinate. It makes you human. Usually, procrastination stems from fear of the thing you’re procrastinating. Dig deep into this and figure out what you’re afraid of. Then #ffear and get writing.


Photo by GMax Studios

Characters are important to your story, especially if it’s character-driven. Find that you have perfect characters? Flat characters? Too many of the same characters? Not enough of a cast? Too much of a cast?


Give your characters real flaws. These flaws should get in their way constantly. The flaws don’t always have to relate to the lie your character believes, but at least one should. Look back at their childhoods and see what traumatic events could shape a flaw. Then use the hell out of it to create conflict. This goes for both perfect and flat characters. Dig deep into their psyche to figure out who they are. Make a list of possible flaws and choose some.

When you find that you have too many of the same characters, it helps to combine some of them into one or two characters. That also goes for too much cast. Remember that the more characters you have, the more chances you have of confusing a reader. A confused reader is not a good thing. Don’t do it.

If you think you don’t have enough cast, think hard about it. There is no formula for how many characters you need. You can have one character if it means your story gets told. If you think it’s important to add some, think of character types that help advance your plot or main characters. Don’t add random ones.

Check out the posts on character building.


Photo by Toa Heftiba

A lot of writers find they are either really good at dialogue, or pretty bad at it. It’s definitely something easy to get wrong. Dialogue is one of the best tools you have in your writing arsenal, and if not used carefully, it can ruin your work.

Writers find they have flat dialogue or a simple exchange bit. Too realistic dialogue is also a huge problem. Other problems include: being formal all the time, glaring dialogue tags, no dialogue tags, phonetic spelling, too much or no narrative, using names too often, summarizing important dialogue, and the opposite, writing out everything.


Use silence to create conflict. If your character asks a difficult question or gives a difficult statement, either have the other character use silence or try to change the subject. This also ties into the simple exchange bit (on the nose). Don’t have characters ask questions and then give an answer right away. People don’t talk like that.

Speaking of how people talk, skip the interrupters. The “um” “ers” and stutters, for the most part. Some exchanges call for them but cut when possible. Try not to have your characters be too formal, though, unless it’s part of that character’s personality. Keep in mind that people also speak differently based on who they are talking to. Talking to a spouse will be different than talking to an officer who has just pulled you over.

Using the tag “said” is best for most cases, though feel free to mix it up from time to time. Readers will skip the word said, and that’s what you want. You don’t want them to be pulled from the story because of an obtrusive dialogue tag.

For instance, don’t say:

“I hate you!” she screamed.

The exclamation point says it all. Even better than ‘said’ is using action tags instead of dialogue tags. Example:

John lit his cigarette, his gaze level on Steph,. “I hate you.”

In most cases, you’d never place an action in the same paragraph as someone else’s dialogue so this wouldn’t confuse the reader.

Phonic spelling gets to be a problem when it draws your reader from your work. Use it sparingly. Use narrative to enhance your dialogue, and dialogue to enhance your narrative. It’s all about balance. Skip characters using other character’s names unless it’s for emphasis.

Check out more dialogue tips.



Going back to what I said in the plot section. Your first few drafts won’t be perfect. Train your brain to have a switch. There is a time for editing, and it’s not during your first few drafts.

Save your neurotic tendencies for your last draft, and even then, remember the goal is to move forward, not be stuck.


My Journey 10.9.19

Photo by Boudewijn Huysmans

A few years ago, I worked for a medical alert company. During a one-on-one meeting with one of the supervisors, I had a bit of a melt down. It was strange, but sort of expected. I was pregnant with my son, so bouts of emotion were quite common. The meeting was just about to begin, but my supervisor had to step out for a moment, and when she came back, she found me sitting there, a blubbering mess. I wish I could truly only blame my hormones, and although they played a huge part in it, they weren’t the cause.

There I was, a single mom to my unborn child, who wasn’t sure how I was going to do. I have a plan for my life, and my current position wasn’t it. I felt like shit. I wasn’t doing what I wanted to be doing, and I certainly wasn’t being me. I forgive myself now because I realize how much trauma weight I was under, but back then, I was super harsh to myself. I was a down right bitch to myself, and it finally caught up.

I tried explaining this to my boss. I wasn’t happy with my life but had no idea how to change it. Then she asked me a question that I toiled with for years. It was only very recently that I figured out the answer.

She said, “Kayla, what does happiness look like to you?”

Fuck if I knew.

I kept coming up with what I wanted to be, which was a writer. Little could I see that I was already a writer. I felt like a failure because the people who graduated with me seemed so successful, and here I was, no college degree, a single mom, had my first good paying job (that sucked the soul out of me), with nothing to show for my twenty some years.

If I could go back in time, I’d be a little more loving with younger me. She’d been through a lot and had a lot to work through. So, let me tell you what happiness means to me, because I finally figured the shit out.

Happiness to me means choosing my authentic self at every crossroad. It’s loving myself enough to show the world who I am unfiltered. I’m still working on it, but me is shining through and let me tell you…

She’s pretty fucking awesome.

I always told myself that I’m that caterpillar who will one day turn into a butterfly. The last few months I’ve been weaving (do they actually weave?) my cocoon. Lately I’ve been sitting inside it, quietly transforming.

I’ve learned a shit ton in the last six months. My journey to become a better person and to become a better writer, have gone hand in hand. I have this new appreciation for life like I’ve never had before. Writing, like many other things in my life, is fun again.

In my need to understand how great writers write, I turned to as many psychology books as I could get my hands on. As I began to understand myself, my fears, my desires, my dreams, and goals, I began to understand people. More importantly, I began to put that understanding to practice. I see people differently now.

I’ve found that I’m more understanding of people, less judgmental, than I was before. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with their actions, but I’m more accepting of differences. It’s so important to be culturally sensitive.

My depression and anxiety is at its all time low. Me saying that today means something, because today wasn’t high on my fun-days list. But you know what? I had a today, and I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful the Universe (which, by the way, I totally have faith in now) decided that I’m experiencing another day.

I’m finally the fucking butterfly, and I’m ready, Universe. I’m ready.

Photo by Yuval Levy

10 Tips for Self-Care

With NaNoWriMo approaching, I wanted to talk about self-care. To not get burned out, you have to have coping strategies. I asked a few of my writing groups (Fiction Writing, Inner Circle Writers’ Group, Zombie Pirate Publishing Writers Group, and Creative Fiction Writing) what they practiced for self-care and wanted to share their answers with you. First, let’s take a look at what self-care is.

“Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.”
― Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

What is self-care?

Self-care is the act of giving your soul what it needs to replenish. It’s different for everyone, as what works for one person may not work for another, so keep that in mind as you try new ways. Self-care is important for all walks of life, not just writers. Creating art is not what makes you creative. What makes self-care a universal necessity is creativity is deeply woven into the fabric of human nature. Regardless of passion or profession, we are all creative.

Without art, we’re not human. –Augustín Fuentes

Self-care is a habit, which means that even if you claim you don’t have time for it, you can make time. New habits form all the time. The good news is, you don’t have to devote hours to it daily. All you need is 15 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. See where in your schedule you can fit it in. Get off social media for 15 minutes, fit it in during your children’s naps, on the bus during your way to work, or anywhere else you can.

Types of self-care

There are 5 common types of self-care. Depending on what type of person you are depends on which one you focus on the most, though it’s a good idea to try meeting all of them.

  • Physical
  • Spiritual
  • Social
  • Emotional
  • Mental

10 Tips on self-care

As I stated before, you have to find what works for you. Here are some of the ways fellow members use self-care.

  • Journaling
  • Exercise
  • Creative play
  • Meditation
  • Video games
  • Reading
  • Free writing
  • Yoga
  • Getting off electronics for a bit
  • Eating the right foods

#1: Sleep

Photo by Kate Stone Matheson

As you probably guessed, sleep is important. A good night (or day, depending on your schedule) of sleep can help you reduce stress, improve your memory, help regulate your metabolism, boost your immune system, lower your blood pressure, help your focus, and among other benefits, keep you in a good mood.

#2: Healthy eating

Photo by Adam Śmigielski

You may be surprised to learn the connection between stress and food. More specifically, the connection between stress and your gut. As you know, the brain is in charge of all things emotional and behavioral. Yet, your gut sends some of those signals through neurotransmitters. This is called the gut-brain axis. Can you guess what it’s also connected to?

The immune system, which you probably also know can be affected by stress.

Eat good foods to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Check out healthline for a small list of things you can eat to live a healthy lifestyle and read about the gut-brain axis.

#3: Exercise

Photo by Bruno Nascimento

As with healthy eating, exercise helps reduce stress, anxiety, and depression by the release of feel-good endorphins. A good routine can keep your energy up, keep you fit, and keep you writing.

#4: Journal

Photo by Aaron Burden

You know how we make others feel better by listening to what they have to say? The same applies to you with yourself. Journaling is nothing more than giving yourself attention. See how much more clear-headed you are after a few minutes of journaling.

#5: Spend time with yourself.

Photo by BhAvik SuThar

Just as it’s important to listen to yourself, it’s important to give yourself quality time with, well, yourself. Take yourself on a date, treat yourself to a massage, to dinner, to a movie.

#6: Be Grateful

Photo by Brigitte Tohm

Give thanks, especially for the small things. When you’re having a bad day, stop for a moment and thank the universe (or whichever higher power you believe in) for the current weather, no matter what the weather is like. Rain makes stuff grow, sunshine spreads warmth, storms show power, snow is beautiful. Be grateful for family, for being like them or having the strength to be different. Be grateful for lessons and gifts.

#7: Keep records

Photo by Hope House Press – Leather Diary Studio 

Write down the good things that happened. When you have bad days, you’ll have material to make you happy. Keep track of your goals and priorities, as well. They don’t have to be large ones, and checking off ones you’ve met will give you a boost of confidence.

#8: Get out of your comfort zone

Photo by Tomáš Vydržal

Do what you’re afraid to do. These are often the most worthwhile memory makers. Do what terrifies you like it’s your last day on earth.

#9: Be forgiving

Photo by Felix Koutchinski

Yes, of others, but mostly yourself. Forgive yourself for mistakes, for expectations (yours and what other people think for you), for acting out of character, for not achieving your goals right away.

#10: Say NO

Photo by Andy T

If it doesn’t serve your priorities and goals, say no. You have enough on your plate without doing a ton of favors for others. No need to stretch yourself so thin that you don’t have enough time for what really matters, including self-care. “No” can be a hard thing to say, but you know what? It can also be easy.

One last note: self-care and self-medication are not the same things. One is healthy, one is ignoring what your subconscious is trying to tell you. If you’re struggling, reach out to someone you trust, whether it’s a friend, family member, or health professional. As someone who struggled with substance abuse (which isn’t just drugs), I personally know things can get better.

What do you do for self-care? Leave a comment below!

The Inciting Incident and Key Event

I find a lot of writers aren’t clear on what the inciting incident is, and in those cases, they’ve seldom heard of the Key Event. Both are plot points in the Dramatic Structure, and both usually occur in the first act. It’s possible that the inciting incident occurs before story-time, or at the beginning, but before we get too confused, let’s define exactly what each point is.

Inciting Incident

Photo by John Cameron

The Inciting Incident is plot-related. If you’re a Star Wars nerd, you’ll remember where Princess Leia sends R2-D2 and C3-PO away with plans and a call for help. That’s considered the Inciting Incident. Or when the games are announced on The Hunger Games. The main conflict in your story hasn’t affected the MC yet, but that’s a job for the Key Event.

Key Event

Photo by Markus Spiske

The Key Event is character-related and draws your MC into the plot, oftentimes smacking them in the face. Luke and his uncle’s purchase of R2-D2 and C3-PO draws him into the main conflict, even if he doesn’t know it yet. When Katniss volunteers in her sister’s place is her key event. That one is a bit more in-your-face.

Where do they belong?

Photo by Jacob Miller

As I said, the inciting incident can take place before story-time, such as the setup up the games long before Katniss. This is just a moment where the reader tastes what’s to come. The choice is yours where in the first act you wish to place it, but it often comes before the key event.

The key event takes place half way through the first act, around the 12% mark.

Keep in mind that the Dramatic Structure is more of a guideline than a hard-fast rule. You need to do whatever is best for your story, and if you trust yourself, you’ll often find you put them right where they need to be.

Humans have an innate drive for story-telling, and it’s often only when we overthink it do we mess it up. Also, keep in mind that it all depends where your story starts. If you have no set-up of the ordinary world, you’ll find your two plot points will happen sooner.

My suggestion is to plan them in advance, regardless of where you start. You’ll often go back and change the beginning anyhow. As long as you know what they are, you’re good.

Comment below your favorite inciting incidents and key events!

Writer’s Block: Fear On Steroids.

Photo by Joe Beck

Imagine you’re a new blogger, and your blog is super important to your Author Platform. It’s one of the things that’s going to make agents and publishers notice you. It’s what’s going to start your reader base. It’s what’s going to make or break your career. You have to build it from the ground up, build it out of nothing, and hope you don’t fail. Because if you do, there goes your whole career.

It’s probably not that serious, but in this day and age, it’s pretty important to have an Author Platform. The point is that your anxiety probably rose a bit when you imagined all that pressure building over a blog.

You’ve probably felt it while writing a draft. You probably sat back and thought, “I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing and no one will be interested in a single thing I write.”

And then, poof, you can’t write. Not a single word. You stare at the blank page, maybe delete or scratch out whatever you did write. Devastation follows, self-loathing, depression, the whole works, because of one sentence. One feeling. But, probably a feeling you’ve felt far too many times, and not just in your writing life.

That is fear on steroids.

I promise there are ways to beat this feeling. As we all know, though, we are different people and what works for me may not work for you. We do have one main thing in common, though.

We can change how we think.

Use it or lose it.

Photo by Natasha Connell

First, it’s important to understand the brain. Scientists used to think that our neural pathways (basically a “signal path”) were set by our mid-twenties, never to change. They recently discovered this isn’t the case.

In fact, the opposite is true.

Brains have amazing neuroplasticity, which is the ability to reorganize those signal paths based on experiences.

It’s why some people who were abused or fought in wars develop PTSD. I developed it after domestic violence. It’s also why psychotherapy works (at least for me). Negative experiences can shape our brain, but if we work at it, we can intentionally shape it, too.

Bottom line is: you can teach an old dog new tricks.


Photo by Natasha Connell

Think of neural pathways like hiking trails. The more you travel a particular trail, the more defined it becomes. If we stop hiking a trail and start another one, the old one starts to grow back and the new one becomes well traveled instead. The strength of neural pathways depends on how much we work at a particular skill. It becomes easier the more we do it (habit).

The great part is that neuroplasticity helps in cases of brain injury. It takes neurons from damaged pathways and helps us cope in new ways, strengthening less used pathways or creating new ones. Like building muscles, it takes time. Takes resiliency. Takes stubbornness.

Which leads me back to changing how we think.


Photo by Jared Rice

We’ve all been guilty of self-sabotage, and being downright mean to ourselves. Let me be the first to say this doesn’t help out creativity. It dries it out, among a whole bunch of other psychological problems.

Ask yourself this: would you be so cruel to someone else as you are to yourself?

If the answer is no, then why treat yourself this way? (If the answer is yes, please do some soul searching. The world has enough ugly.)

You’re so busy trying to be perfect at everything you do, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. There is no greater gift than the ability to love yourself, and it’ll do wonders for your creativity.

One of my rules now is I don’t call myself names, not even when I’m so frustrated with myself and my inability to write that I could give up. I also try to not use definitive words when I talk about myself and my actions. “Never” and “always” are not in my vocab. (I’m still trying to reassign those neural pathways, so you’ll catch me still using them from time to time).

Say out loud, “I’m never going to be a good writer”. How does that make you feel? What happened to your mood? Now say with a little attitude, “I am a good writer!” Did it pick you back up?

As I stated, neural pathways aren’t redirected overnight. It takes time, practice, and patience. When you catch yourself being negative, correct yourself. Be nicer to yourself. Be the little engine that could. Shove the fear and negativity off the back of the train. You are worth it. What you’re writing becomes worth it with practice. No one can say things as you can.

Self-care is incredibly important if you want to live a healthy life. Without it, it can truly make or break you.

Training neural pathways is one way to beat writer’s block. Working on being positive will pay off. It’ll change your life.

Some times, losing it is positive, if you’re losing the negativity.

Kayla Reeder is an aspiring author. She studies Creative Writing at SNHU, with a minor in Psychology. She resides in central PA with her toddler son and little dog.

12 Newbie Writer Mistakes

Laundry list descriptions

Photo by Jason Briscoe

Readers like to use their imaginations, so try not to go on about how a character looks. It’s better to describe a character based on behavior, personality, and body language.

Spelling errors

No, not “typos”, but mistakes such as changing the spelling of a name several times throughout a manuscript.

Not editing

Photo by Andrew Neel

Yes, those types of spelling errors. Grammatical errors, plot holes, the like. Check out the piece on Dramatic Structure to help with plot.


Don’t use ten words when you only need five.

Having characters with similar names

This confuses readers and makes them work to keep your story straight. Readers do like challenges, but not this kind. This isn’t a hard rule as many successful writers have done it, but keep in mind that they went through vigorous character building. Check out the How-To series for tips on character building.


Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič

Readers are all for imaginations, but when it comes to things like typical procedures–police, firemen, doctors, etc, you want to make sure your stuff is right.

Dialogue Issues

This could be tags, punctuation, small talk, voice. Check out my other posts: What We Don’t Say and What We Do Say

Sensory Information

Photo by Samuel Zell

Or lack of. Include all the senses. If you’re writing sci-fi, include more if your characters have them. Check out the Setting post for ways your setting can help invoke your character’s emotions.


They are so last summer.

Adjective Overkill

Readers get wary when they read a laundry list of adjectives.


Pick a tense and stick to it, only altering for things such as flashbacks, memories, dreams, visions.


Photo by Mike Enerio

There is a place for it, but for the most part you should aim for showing.

7 Dialogue Tips: What We Do Say

Photo by Bewakoof.com Official

Would you believe that only 18% of the population favors assertiveness? That means 82% of the population favor a more passive approach. That’s a whole lot of miscommunication and pent up emotion. How did it get this way?

I mentioned in another post on characters that our upbringing has a lot to do with who we are today. This goes for the things we say and don’t say. Our culture is geared more toward collectivism that started the day we entered school.

How a person was raised will affect the way they speak. Where they were raised will affect which words they choose. Even their gender will affect how they speak. Good dialogue is hard to write. My top suggestions are to know your characters and save the fluff.

If the dialogue doesn’t move the plot forward or show character, leave it out. In my other post about dialogue, I explained about the unspoken content, but in the following tips, you’ll learn how to use what characters do say the right way.

Fluffy doesn’t belong here.

Photo by Matthew Henry

You want your dialogue to be natural, and a good way to make this happen is to listen to other people speaking to one another. you’ll notice the way words flow, how different people speak, even if they are from the same area, but you’ll also notice the fluff.

The dreary niceties. Small talk, stammering (unless part of your character’s voice, and even then, don’t overwhelm us), repetition. Fluff is the stuff that doesn’t belong in dialogue.


Photo by Clem Onojeghuo

Each character should have their own voice. A good way to check this is to write a scene without dialogue tags. If you can make this work in the book, fantastic, but stick to practicing it before you include any. If your characters all speak alike and you can’t tell who is speaking, go back to work. Knowing your characters will help improve your character voices.


Dialect and voice tie in, but I wanted to touch on this. Feel free to add a few sparse pieces of dialect to begin with, but don’t overdo it. We only need hints–odd words native to where they come from, the way they put sentences together, action tags, so forth. If you don’t hit us over the head with dialect, we won’t have to reread your dialogue. Thus, interrupting the flow of your work.

Dialogue as tension

Dialogue is a powerful tool if used correctly. One of the best things it can do is raise the tension instantly. It can enhance the mood of the scene (also enhancing conflict when applicable). People rarely say what they mean, so dialogue is a simple way to create misunderstandings.

Preach to me

Photo by Nycholas Benaia

When the author inserts himself/herself into the narrative or dialogue. You’re forcing your theme or central idea on the reader and it shows. You’ve got something you want to say in your work, and that’s perfectly fine, but show the reader, don’t shove it down their throat with pure telling.

Mixing it up

As I’ve said, dialogue is hard. Another mistake newbies make is to rely on dialogue alone. Dialogue is to enhance the narrative, not take its place. Take a look at my other post about dialogue here.

Tag–you’re it

A lot of writers think that it’s repetitive to use the tag “said” but in actuality, we prefer it. That’s not to say that you can’t use other tags, but be wary of tags that repeat what your character just said or the punctuation you just used to end the dialogue line. In the case of a question mark, it is okay to use “asked” but you could easily use “said”, as well. No need to use “yelled” when there is an exclamation point. (Also, use exclamation points sparingly). When you choose to use another adverb as a tag, be sure it’s a strong one.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list. Good dialogue is difficult to write, but hopefully these tips will get you on the right path. Leave a comment below about other dialogue tips you’ve come across. Enjoy!

6 Wishes Beta Readers Want You To Know

6 Wishes Beta Readers Want You to Know

We love our alpha and beta readers. Where would we be without them? I asked a few larger writing groups (Fiction Writing is the size of a city, just over 93,000 members) what the most common problems they saw when they alpha or beta read. I learned a lot from their answers and now I’m going to share them with you.

Believe it or not, a lot of writers often don’t know the difference between what a beta and an alpha reader is, so let’s clarify that one before we begin.

Alpha Reader

An alpha reader (aka the first reader) is usually someone close to you, such as a friend or family member. You would send them your manuscript in the earliest drafts, and long before you would send it to a beta. Their job is to guide further revisions by picking out problems in your draft. They tell you what works and what doesn’t, hopefully in the nicest way possible. They look at big-picture problems, such as plot, character, and structure. You may redraft several times after their feedback.

Beta Reader

After you’ve redrafted the appropriate number of times (until you cannot pick out any problems and have addressed the ones alpha readers pointed out) and self-edited, you send it off to a beta reader. You usually send it to betas right before your final draft, and it’ll be their input that you include in your (hopefully) final draft. They look at the big, polished picture with specific criteria in mind for feedback. They often look for what isn’t going to work for the reader and why it won’t work. Beta readers vary in skill set.

  • Note- the third phase is an ARC. ARC stands for Advanced Review Copy. These readers mainly write a review on it. At this phase, the manuscript is a published book and the writer isn’t looking for feedback to make changes.

The moment you’ve been waiting for…

6 Wishes from your betas.

Photo by Steven Williams


I cannot stress the importance of self-edits enough, and as one of the top answers, neither can your betas. Now, we’ve all heard the adage “you’re too close to your writing”, but some writers take this to mean they don’t have to self-edit. As lovely as having a magic elf do the boring parts (and free at that), it doesn’t work that way. In our current world, it’s important now more than ever to self-edit.

  • Check out The Writer and their awesome tips for self-editing.

Under self-edits, here are the common problems:

  1. Dialogue punctuation
  2. Run on sentences
  3. Shifting verb tenses
  4. Passive voice
  5. Grammar
  6. Prose
  7. Too many adverbs

The author wanting Beta readers after they have finished 1 chapter or less.
They need to understand no one can properly Beta read an unfinished manuscript.
Also, the first draft is not a finished novel. It is the author telling themselves the story. No novel is finshed until it had been rewritten rewritten, rewritten ect, ect, ect over and over again until the author has the novel they started to write. When they can no longer change a word, then, maybe, its ready for Beta readers. But usually not.
I suggest all authors put the novel away while they write another novel. When that novel is as perfect as the author can make it, then the author can go back to first novel and reread it. If they still can’t change a word, then they ask for Beta readers.

-Bernadette C.


Going back to another set of posts I wrote, it’s important to know your characters. Go back to the beginning and write biographies for each of your main characters. Figure out their personality and make their pasts the reason for their flaws and strengths. Each of them will be different based on where they came from and what their childhoods were like.

Under characters, here are the main problems:

  1. Unrealistic character behavior
  2. Perfect characters
  3. Identical characters

I beta read a lot of romance, or at least stories with a romance sub. One thing I see too much are lovers who really need to have it out over something major, but instead the author decides to let them have a peaceful and loving bonding session or date. Like, no, that needs to come AFTER you’ve cleared the air, if you manage to clear the air without hating each other. Basically, any unrealistic behavior makes me twitch. There was at least one time I mentioned this to the author and they shrugged it off. deep sigh

-Fatima S.


There are several points of views you can choose from, and you don’t have to stick to just one. What you should do is avoid head-hopping. Never, ever, ever switch POV in the middle of a scene. This means your characters won’t know what other characters think. They could make an educated guess, but unless they’re mind readers, stick to your initial character. Always use a scene break or chapter break when changing POV.


Photo by 수안 최

Have you heard of talking head syndrome? This is what your betas mean when referencing dialogue problems (aside from dialogue punctuation). You have a whole lot of dialogue and very few movements. This is a good time to show character quirks. That being said, avoid stage direction dialogue. Find your balance. Check out my post on dialogue and body language.

Story Issues

This is a broad category, but so important, as each of these will make or break your story.

In most of beta reading I did, the problem was that the action started too early or too late. We can get the personality of a mc in few pages, no need to write 3 chapter of introduction. On the other hand, too much action without context seem pointless, and it can be very confusing especially when many characters are evolved 

– Laurence Beaudry. Visit her at her blog.
  1. Pacing (big one. Refer to my Dramatic Structure post for help)
  2. Plot manipulation
  3. Structure (Dramatic Structure post again)
  4. Over-explaining (not trusting your readers)
  5. Cliches
  6. Lack of creativity (there may not be a whole lot of original ideas out there, but you can certainly add your own flavor)
  7. Not doing enough research on the topic (this was a BIG one)

{A problem is} action that happens because the writer needs it to happen for the plot and not because it is the logical progression of the character’s motivation.

-Vanessa W. Connect with her at Storm Dance Publication

Last But Not Least…

Arguing With Your Beta

I know we know our stories. We’ve worked hard on them. They’re our babies, and for someone to just not get them…it’s enough to close down the feedback department and go on the defensive. You don’t have to take every piece of advice your beta, or even alpha, reader gives to you, but you’d be smart to at least consider all of it.

While it’s possible that your beta missed the point you were trying to make, it’s also possible you, as the writer, weren’t clear. Or overly clear. Or it just doesn’t fit the rest of the story. There are a million reasons you could argue with your beta, but they didn’t read your entire piece just to argue with you. They honestly want to see you and your book do well. It helps to evaluate your level of skill compared to theirs. Maybe you have more. Maybe they have more.

Either way, thank them and move on. You have a book to finish.

Almost all of these should be fixed before it reaches the beta reader. They wish to give you the best feedback they possibly can, but can only do that if the piece has a nice, shiny finish on it. They want to make sure you can give your work one last coat before sending it out to the world.

  • With all that said, it’s important for beta or alphas readers to let a writer know if they are unable to finish a manuscript. A note saying “I think you wanted an alpha reader” should suffice. I think if writers self-edit and follow the rest of the tips, they will see a decline in beta readers who do not finish.

Comment down below if you enjoyed this little study and want to see more of them. Happy reading and writing!

K. L. Reeder is an aspiring author. She studies Creative Writing at SNHU, with a minor in Psychology. She resides in central PA with her toddler son and little dog.

Author Interview # 2- W. Scott

W. Scott is a writer and actor who calls Williamsport, Pa home. He writes poetry, fantasy, and romance. You can nearly always catch him with a cup of coffee in one hand and a writing implement in the other. He’s an avid dreamer of bigger things. He takes a firm stance in decreasing the stigma on mental health. Take a look below to learn a little about him and check out what he has to offer!

Q: It’s always hard to let others read what we write, but is it more difficult because of your content? Are there any special processes you have to go through before publishing it in any platform? Such as pep talks.

A: I do think that when one publishes anything, whether it be poetry, fantasy, or even a school essay, there is always a little trepidation. As writers, artists in general, we bare creative souls. There are pieces of ourselves that we are showing to the world and knowing that those pieces can now be accepted or rejected, it’s frightening. But we shouldn’t ever let the fear stop us. I try to always think of it that way. The big reason as to why I put my work out there in the world is to feel less alone and to have someone else feel less alone as well.

Q: We know there is still a negative outlook on mental illness, a lot of stigma. Do you have any encouraging words for writers who are held back from this?

A: I once heard a preacher say that we have to step out of the boat. She was using the metaphor of the time when Jesus walked on water and how His disciple, Peter, walked out to meet Him. It took a lot of courage and tremendous faith. Having and living with any type of mental illness is seriously tough. But when dealing with this, I know for myself, I try to think about the rewards on the other side.

Q: What is your absolute favorite genre to write out of all the ones you’ve done?

A: I think that it would have to be poetry. There is a vulnerability there that can be very therapeutic. And poetry doesn’t have to be or sound very complex to be poetry. Poetry is more or less about putting your essence out on the page, a piece of yourself that perhaps another reader can relate to.

Q: What’s your favorite piece you’ve done?

A: Haha, it is strange because it would feel like trying to pick a favorite child. I do not have a specific piece that I would call my favorite because each one deals with or talks about a different emotion that I’ve felt, sort of like a snapshot. But if I had to pick one, the piece that comes to mind at the moment would have to be the one titled, sincerely, setting the firefly free. I published this one in my most recent book, Notecards and Scrolls, and basically I was talking to an ex of mine. I knew that soon we would both be going in different directions. We both had dreams that we wanted to accomplish and I was telling him that I didn’t want to hold him back. I wanted to see him grow and shine and be happy. So I was writing to him telling him that it is alright. I set you free.

Q: Does your creativity ever get blocked and if so, what do you do to unblock it?

A: Oh, yes. I’ve been going through a sort of block for the past couple of weeks now. And what’s worse is that I’m the type of writer where I am unable to just make myself sit and write. So usually I will try to either go for a walk or a drive. It opens up my mind some and when that happens, a spark will sometimes go off. But I also try to continue tell myself that even just writing a sentence is alright.

Q: When did you start writing?

A: It is a little hard to say, haha. During my childhood, I was an avid journaler. I kept several notebooks in my bedroom because I constantly lived in my head. I still do to this day.  

Q: What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

A: Probably believing that my work has to be perfect, to sound perfect to be accepted. Oftentimes, I will talk myself out of writing for several days because I would become so hard on myself. I am still learning how to love and be grateful for the editing process. 

Q: What was your favorite part, and your least favorite part, of the publishing journey?

A: My favorite part would have to be discovering my book on the store websites, like books-a-million, barnes n’ noble, amazon, etc. Even when I held the author copy in my hand, I had a hard time believing that it was my book. My least favorite part of publishing would have to be the marketing. I am bad at it. and no matter which route you take in the publishing journey, traditional or self-publishing, you have to learn how to market yourself. 

Q: Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?

A: I am. Coming up, I was lucky and grateful enough to be able to put together an anthology project titled (un)graceful bones. There are nine beautifully raw and talented writers a part of this project and we are all talking about mental health and how it affects each one of us. that come out Oct. 8. I also am tying up my last book in my Bottled Messages series, titled Postcards and Bristol.  

Q: What’s your favorite book when you were a kid and what is it now?

A: What’s strange is that as a child, I didn’t have a favorite book. I hated reading. So I made up stories of my own to entertain myself. As an adult, I would have to say that my favorite book would have to be Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It’s so cliche, I think, haha, but I feel that J.K. Rowling’s was the first book to open me up to so many wonderful and vast universes out there. 

Q: If you could ask one successful author three questions about their writing, writing process, or books, what would they be?

A: 1. Do you believe that a writer should make themselves write every day in order to become a successful writer? 2. Are you able to listen to music when you write and if so, what kind? 3. Do you believe in writer’s block and if so, how do you overcome it? 

Q: What time of the day do you usually write?

A: I feel more comfortable writing at night. I am not sure why but that is usually when I can get the most down on paper. 

Q: Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers about your work?

A: I would like to thank them for giving a piece of my heart a chance. 

Q: Share something your readers wouldn’t know about you.

A: I am a performer as well. I’ve performed in musicals and plays since I was about four or five years old.  

W. Scott has appeared at the local bookstore in his hometown for signings (also the oldest independent bookstore in the country) Otto’s.

Check out his Amazon page for his lovely books, two so far in an anthology.

5 Tips On Brilliant Book Covers

I see thousands of books every day, all day long. There are those ones that automatically grab me. I must have this book just because I like the cover and it was in my preferred genre. I won’t even read the blurb on the back. Then there are the ones that I’ll walk past a dozen times while working, and it’ll continue to catch my eye. Those are the ones I’ll take a minute to read the blurb.

It makes me often wonder how many good books I’ve passed up because I didn’t have enough time and the cover didn’t catch my attention. Sadly, that happens all too often. In the ever-changing, fast world we live in, your cover is your first weapon.

Make it pop

Photo by Sharon Pittaway

I’ve talked before about color psychology in a recent post. Color Psychology is defined as the study of hues as a determinant of human behavior. This means that when our reptilian brain processes a color, we feel an emotion. It varies from person to person, but if we can see color, we feel it.

Fun fact:  The Egyptians and Chinese used colors to heal, a process that is known as chromotherapy 

Satyendra Singh did a study to see how color affected marketing. The results were that 70% of people made up their minds in less than 2 minutes. What your book cover looks like plays a huge part in that decision.

Contrast matters, too, and helps the cover pop.

Don’t Crowd

Photo by Karen Lau

Sometimes too much is just too much. Your cover doesn’t have to be super simple, but don’t overwhelm your reader by having it too busy. Remember: less is more.


Your font matters. Research what others are doing for the specific genre to see what works and what doesn’t. It might look cool to you, but to those who are trying to figure out the name of your book, it might get frustrating.

Keep it true to genre

Photo by Saffu

This means, in its basics, that you want your readers to tell what sort of genre it is by the cover. You certainly wouldn’t put a murder scene on a romance novel cover.

Size matters

Photo by Saffu

Ask anyone with sight problems: there is almost nothing more frustrating than trying to read something that’s too small. If your reader has to get a magnifying glass to tell what your book’s title is, your font is too small.

Tell us what your favorite book covers are in the comments below!