Dear Writer, Are You Struggling? Maybe These Tips Will Help.

A screenshot of an auction notification, showing I'd won a FULL manuscript critique.
(Image by Susan Foster)

If, like me, you are immersed in the process of writing a novel, I have a few suggestions that may help you as much as they've helped me.

Don't Do This Alone

When I first began writing a novel, it was a solitary process. Just me, some craft books to study,  a jumble of online courses, podcasts, and author newsletters. (More on those in a bit.)

Fortunately, in the time since I began, my support system has grown immensely, largely as a result of my joining the Women's Fiction Writer's Association

Tip #1. Join a Writing Association

I've praised the Women's Fiction Writer's Association in the past, and now I'm going to do it again. The membership fee is very reasonable and has been the most worthwhile investment I've made on my path towards becoming a novelist.

Here are just a few of the benefits I've enjoyed since joining:

  • Zoom Write-In Dates (Accountability and I've made good friends here)  
  • A huge number of webinars, workshops, and courses 
  • A supportive and informative Facebook community
  • A critique group matching service
  • The WFWA Writer's Conference in Chicago this past fall

If you write Women's Fiction and would enjoy becoming a part of a community of supportive writers, the Women's Fiction Writer's Association would be a good fit for you. If your writing is more suited to a different genre, there are lots of other good associations you can join.

You may want to seek help in other ways

I thought I knew what I was doing, but I had blind spots and needed help. 

Two additional connections have been an invaluable asset to my writing journey...

Tip #2. Find Good Critique Partners

For a myriad of reasons, I wasn't part of a local writer's group, so when the WFWA Critique Matching Program opened up in August of 2022, I filled out a questionnaire regarding my genre, progress on my manuscript, etc. By September, I had wonderful new critique partners. 

We have been supporting, encouraging, and critiquing each other's work ever since. Although the three of us live in Europe, eastern Canada, and the Western US, we've become an important part of each other's lives. 

My writing and understanding of story structure have both improved, thanks to their insightful comments on my story and from the knowledge I've gained critiquing their work.

The value of good critique partners cannot be over-emphasized. I'm so glad I found mine!

Tip #3. Consult with a Developmental Editor or a Writing Coach

I suspect a lot of writers are like I used to be, resistant to needing help and doubtful that a consultation with a developmental editor or writing coach would be beneficial to me. But I was wrong.

If you are struggling at any stage while writing a novel and can find an affordable option, I highly recommend you consult with a gifted writing coach or developmental editor. I just did, and that phone call may have saved me incalculable hours of time and heartache!

WFWA organizes a Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association Annual Auction to fund a scholarship program. This past September, I was thrilled when my bid won the full manuscript critique donated by Hend Hegazi. I was disappointed for the organization that the bidding was low this year, but it worked in my favor, as I secured a manuscript critique for a fraction of what they are worth.

Unfortunately, I've been struggling to get my current work-in-progress into good enough shape to benefit from a critique. I finally admitted to myself that something wasn’t working and even with my critique partner's input, I couldn't fix it. I emailed Hend, letting her know I was considering shelving the manuscript.

She kindly offered a consultation to help me decide the right way forward.

My video chat with Hend was so helpful and productive. She is kind, easy to connect with, and clearly very bright and experienced. I was impressed by how quick she was to grasp the concept of my novel. Rather than give a lot of advice, she asked the right questions to help me see (and admit to myself) what was working and what wasn't. When we finished talking, I had gained a clear understanding of how I might fix my novel and had enjoyed a conversation with a truly caring and delightful person.

My enthusiasm for this manuscript has returned, and I’m convinced I can now rewrite a much more solid draft. I am looking forward to sending the revised version to Hend and learning/benefiting even more from her critique. 

I highly recommend Hend Hagazi to anyone in need of a developmental editor or writing coach. I've learned first-hand that a person with her expertise can help a writer diagnose and treat elusive problems within a manuscript.

I mentioned craft books, online courses, podcasts, and author newsletters. 

I don't want to sell these resources short. I've learned a lot from them. You can find a list of some of my favorites under the Resources tab of my author website. 

Here are some I've found most helpful recently:

  • I've been enjoying Monica Cox's newsletter, and her tip for how to decide what's clicking and clunking in a story is working well for me. I had several conversations with Monica at the WFWA conference in Chicago and I suspect she is an outstanding book coach.
  • recent podcast by Alice Sudlow made it clear that my best path forward might be to do at least a modified version of a "Page One Rewrite." (Which, to be clear doesn't mean just rewriting the first page, but going back to page one and rewriting the entire manuscript!)
  • Matt Bell's process for revising has resonated with me so much that my copy of his book, Refuse to Be Done is now riddled with highlighting and notes. 
  • When Domestika offered their online course "How to Write a Psychological Thriller" taught by the British novelist Emily Barr for $7.99, I signed up. The course material felt basic as I listened to the lessons, but when I completed the homework assignments, I realized I had successfully outlined my next potential novel! Emily Barr's teaching style is so laid back and her British accent so engaging, that it made the course easy and fun. I learned even more from it than I realized at the time. 

How's Your Writing Coming?

Feel free to leave a comment about where you are in your writing journey, and what has worked for you.  

Happy writing everyone!

In the spirit of full disclosure, this post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of them, the price you pay will not be affected but I may receive some small compensation. All opinions expressed, however, are entirely honest and my own.


  1. I am so happy for you, Susan. You’ve found your people. I am also happy to hear you are open to their help and advice. I agree with you - it’s so important to seek and get help. As for me, I’m publishing my coming-of-age memoir about how Mom and I survived working together for ten years at her Vancouver Asian antiques store. It’ll be available in March - maybe sooner. The manuscript would be very different without help from others. Keep plugging away! I look forward to reading your novel!

  2. Haha - it’s Kelly McKenzie here - I see I came in as anonymous

  3. Kelly, thanks so much for commenting. I cannot wait to read your book!! Keep me posted!


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