Kasey Hill – Author & Poet

Writing One Page at a Time

Are Writing Groups Helpful or Counterproductive?

I recently spoken to an acquisitions editor over one of my novel submissions. When we got to the part of me replacing an actual action i.e I looked around the room, she made note of this: When you replace action tags (he said, she said) with actual action, you have to make sure the reader knows who is speaking and who is not. Example from my written work before and after her suggestion:

Before suggestion:

“Please, I implore you. How do I rectify this situation?” Alpha pleaded looking between the council faces.

“What was the first thing you did to this universe you created?” Alpha turned his gaze to a stunning goddess that held placement in the council.

“I created light where there was no light.” The goddess snickered.

The suggested fix for this:

“Please, I implore you. How do I rectify this situation?” Alpha pleaded looking between the council faces.

“What was the first thing you did to this universe you created?” A voice called out; Alpha turned his gaze to a stunning goddess that held placement in the council.

“I created light where there was no light,” Alpha replied indignantly. The goddess snickered.


Too many times I have seen writers take advice from writing groups telling them to drop the action tags of he said, she said and go with an action to cut down on how many “saids” “replieds” etc you have in your novel. As you can see, I place the necessary paragraph breaks to insinuate a different person speaking. However, the action afterward doesn’t really foreshadow exactly who was speaking. When reading back, I am glad I did make the amended change even if it did include an action tag.

I have come to the conclusion that unless I am being taught by someone who is actually published through a big time publishing company or works for a legitimate publishing company, that all advice offered is just that: advice. It was later stated that the norm for publishing now is to drop the action tag and go with action. However, the acquisitions editor deterred this “fact” and told me that companies prefer the he said, she said banter in the narrative. It gives a clear and concise image in the reader’s head of who is actually speaking and who is listening.

After just a few minor things such as the action tag missing and a quotation mark missing, she overall enjoyed my style of writing and even gushed about the editing qualities my book presented (I did all of the editing and had one proofreader who caught only a few mistakes). This brings me to my next subject of advice from writing groups on social media: Is it necessary to hire a professional editor?

When I send my books out to beta readers, they read the book not once, but twice. The first time they read, it is to enjoy. The second time they read, it is to catch errors for me. To the everyday reader (many of which are critics and quick to catch mistakes in writing) my book passed. The plot had no holes, the editing was past par, and they thoroughly enjoyed the read. I had completely obliterated my first chapter after a rejection letter from a publishing company telling me it had too much info dump. I reworked the one chapter into two separate chapters and edited once more. Again, writers in writing groups still had criticisms on the manuscript to change this and delete that or why is that eve in there? Well, after the acquisitions editor and I spoke, I no longer follow the advice that is handed out in the writing groups. It feels like they try to tear you down as opposed to help build you up (to the point where I was told my first chapter still needed rewritten).

I was rejected by the company the acquisitions editor worked for due to company policy on emerging authors. The manuscript this time was not rejected due to info dump or poor writing. She encouraged me to submit to other companies that there should be one to accept and that I am doing. I am doing one more quick polish to the manuscript, and putting it out to more companies. So far it has had only 4 rejections and one company declined because they were shutting down their business. Not too shabby? Two of the companies were pre-editing the first chapter. The other two, one I explained above, and the other wasn’t looking for Paranormal Romance for their Fantasy submissions.

I guess the point I am trying to make, from trial and error, is to seek actual professional advice from people in the industry. Double check any writing advice lent to you from writing groups, and if you feel like your writing style is different than the norm, go for it! You may be the next Stephen King setting goals and taking book deals 😛


2 comments on “Are Writing Groups Helpful or Counterproductive?

  1. L.K. Scott
    March 19, 2016

    Great advice! Action tags are a difficult and common problem. I usually go with my intuition and take each scene, and each line on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes, depending on the banter, I’ll drop the tags all together like Cormac McCarthy while other times I almost solely use he said/she said like Agatha Christie. For me, it all depends on the tone, tension, and even the character. I do like the changes you made though! The suggested fix is clearer and reads much more smoothly.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kasey Hill
    March 19, 2016

    Thanks L.K.! I spent over an hour on the phone with this editor and she praised my work. This was the only hangup she really found worth a bit of an issue =] I now word my action tags and action tag drops much better with her advice.


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This entry was posted on March 16, 2016 by in Writing and tagged , .
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