How To Ask For Writing Advice

By on August 4, 2017

Almost all of us are struggling with at least one writing related problem right now. (I know I am.) Thankfully, there’s at least one writer in Romanceland who has tackled that exact problem successfully. All we have to do is find her and ask her for advice. (This could be a him also but writing her/him all the time is tiring so let’s assume the writer is female. – grins)

The Question To Ask

I start with the question I want to ask. I make it as narrow as possible. Asking a writer how to write a book is a question that will take her ten years to answer. Asking a writer how to write a great first line for a cyborg romance is a question she can answer in an email.

I only ask questions I truly want answered. If I have already decided to write SciFi Romance, asking her if I should write Paranormal, Fantasy or SciFi Romance is wasting her time and will likely frustrate her (as she will know I’m not truly listening to her answer).

How To Find My Expert

Once I have figured out my question, I investigate whom I should ask.

It makes no sense to ask a contemporary romance writer how to write SciFi Romance. It also doesn’t make sense to ask a midlist writer how to break out of the midlist. Or a trad published writer how to self-publish.

If I want a range of answers, I might ask that question on a Yahoo or Facebook group relevant to my question. There are groups for every writer niche.

If I want a specific writer’s answer, I’ll reach out to her.

Should I Ask This Question Publicly Or Privately?

The more public the answer, the more generic and safe it usually is.

If I ask how much money writers make on their SciFi Romance releases in a group that is open to everyone, readers and writers, I will likely receive very vague answers. “I break even” or “I lose money on every release.” If I ask in a SciFi Romance writer-only group, I will likely receive more detailed answers. “My sales are between X and Y.” If I ask one specific writer in a private message, I will likely receive an even more detailed answer. “On release B, I earned Z sales.”

Note: If a writer tells me something in private, I do NOT share it with anyone unless I have her permission. That writer WILL find out I shared the information and that will be the end of that relationship. I try to be a writer other writers can trust.

Receiving Advice

I always thank the writer for taking the time to respond to my question, even if that response was “I’d rather not say.” If I ask in a group, I individually thank every writer who responds. Picking and choosing whom to reply to sends a message that the other writers’ feedback isn’t valued. I do NOT want to do that.

If the answer to my question is “I’d rather not say”, I try to think of a different way to approach the problem I have. Or I simply share the key problem. Maybe I don’t truly need to know how many sales the writer has. Maybe what I truly need to know is if my release will cover the XX costs of producing that release.

This Doesn’t Apply To Me

Sometimes my first reaction is ‘This advice doesn’t apply to me. I’m different.’ Sometimes (rarely) this is true. Often it isn’t.

When I first started writing, I was advised by a gazillion writers to stick to one niche, to become known for a certain type of story. I dismissed that advice because my muse had to be free. It couldn’t be locked down to one niche.

I was a dumb ass. (laughs) Every writer who gave me that advice had struggled with that same issue. They had merely figured out ways to work with their flighty muses. (I don’t publish every story I write, for example.) If I had followed up on their responses with “How do you handle the urge to write in other niches?”, I would have saved myself years of struggle.

Should I Apply This Advice?

Every writer is different and what works for one writer might not work for another (this applies to ALL of my advice in this and other posts).

If the advice isn’t something I feel comfortable doing, I don’t act on it. If I like the advice but I’m worried it might not work (because this business changes so quickly), I might test it. If the advice feels right to me, is logical, is applicable to today’s publishing world, I might act on it with everything I have.

I don’t argue with the writer about her advice. That doesn’t accomplish anything. I simply thank her and move on. I don’t broadcast that I’m asking others the same question (unless I mentioned that when I asked her the question). That can be interpreted as saying her advice wasn’t good enough.

Any writer who takes the time to respond to a question cares about the person asking the question. She is spending precious writing time trying to help me out. She still might give bad-for-me advice. That’s entirely possible. But her heart is in the right place.


This is how I tackle asking for advice. How do you tackle it?

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