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We all have tools to help us write: a computer, writing books, and a journal. But these aren’t the most important piece in helping me become a better writer.

What helps the most? My writing peeps! They’re the ones who keep me going and improving.

But who are these people? And how do you find them?

1) You are your most important “peep”

If you want to write, you need to…well, write! Then read and revise. Read it again and revise some more. Learn about the craft of structuring a novel or a short story. Figure out how to develop characters. Study the craft of writing…and then write some more.

Trust your gut. You are a creative soul, and if you feel called to write, do it! Don’t keep your creative gifts and talents to yourself.

But, also know that even if you are an amazingly gifted writer, you can still LEARN to become an even better writer!

2) Writing Friends

My writing group buddies are the best writing peeps ever.  When we’re drafting, we meet weekly, submitting pages to one another and giving each other feedback over cookies at a local bakery. Writing groups will ususally work on individual scenes and chapters at a time, not an entire manuscript. They’re also great for brainstorming ideas when you get stuck.

The KEY to a quality writing group is that the members are all WRITERS because writers have the language to tell you why something isn’t working. For example, a non-writer might say, “This part of your story is confusing.”

A writer will say, “This part is confusing because all of a sudden you switched point of view from the main character to the best friend character right in the middle of the scene. You need to keep it all in one perspective.”

If you don’t have peeps that you can meet with in person, you can post your stories here on WTW (and coming soon you can post pieces of them in the Forums) for feedback.

3) Beta Readers

This is a reader who is not a professional editor, but they will read your whole story from beginning to end and give you feedback on it. They might look at story structure, character development, details, punctuation, and style.

It’s important that, like writing group members, beta readers are writers, OR they’re super experienced readers who can articulate what is working and what isn’t working in your story.

I have two beta readers I met online through a writing organization that I belong to. They are both published authors of young adult fiction, so it’s a good fit, and their feedback is super helpful.

4) Professional Editors

At some point in your writing career, you might decide you need a professional editor. I reached this point this last spring with my first novel. Friends had read it, and I had revised. Members of my writing group had read it, and I revised again. Beta readers had read it, and I felt that had made it as good as I possibly could.

But, I decided it needed more help, so I began the search for an editor. After submitting the first chapter to five or six different editors and getting their feedback, I chose one whose feedback was the most helpful, only to discover that she wouldn’t be able to get to my project for six more months because she was in high demand. She’s now working on it, and over the past week, she has sent me numerous questions. She’s definitely fixing it.

All professional editors charge for their services, and they can range in quality from not so great to amazing. Finding a great one can be quite a  research process but well worth the investment of time.

If you are ever planning on self-publishing a book, hiring one or more of the following types of editors is essential. You owe it to yourself and your readers to put your very best work out there.

But how do you choose the type of editor you might want to work with? The following list will help clarify what each type of editor does.

Developmental/Substantive Editor

My current editor is a Developmental Editor. They look at overall story structure, character development, and plot development. They will let you know if your story is sagging in the middle, if your story starts in the right place, if your setting is unclear, or if your climax is in the wrong spot. They will mark up your manuscript and provide thorough feedback on the entire structure.

Line Editor

This type of editor will go through and fix issues with your style and voice, line by line. They will look at sentence structure, flow, word usage, and dialogue.

Copy Editor

A copy editor is what most teen writers think of when they think of “editor.” This is the editor that makes corrections in punctuation, spelling, and usage. They might also look at the overall flow and word usage, but their main goal is to make sure your writing is correct.

Proofreader

This is the final person in the publication/editorial process. The proofreader catches typos, formatting issues/errors, misspelled words, and punctuation errors.

5) Back to you, the Writer

The final step in the editorial process is, again, YOU because ultimately, it’s your story. You get to decide what feedback you want to act on and what you don’t. Surely, you want to listen to copy editors and proofreaders because writing correctly is important.

But, if you disagree with a beta reader or one of your writing group members that you need to make a change, then don’t make the change. For more information, check out the Feedback Resource page that has several posts on dealing with feedback.

What is your best “tool” for becoming a better writer? I’d love to hear. Share in the comments below.