Can you look at my writing for free?

I have been running this writing advice website for nearly five years now. And in that time I’ve resisted writing what I’m going to write now, telling myself that it won’t help to air my views in public. Well it might not help in the long run but it will make me feel better now, so here goes:

NO I CAN’T JUST READ YOUR NOVEL / SCREENPLAY / STAGEPLAY / COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES / ANTHOLOGY OF POEMS / EXTRACT FROM NOVEL / MEMOIRS OR OTHER RAMBLINGS FOR FREE … JUST TO SEE IF YOU’RE ON THE RIGHT TRACK … JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE ON A LIMITED INCOME … JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE FEELING DISCOURAGED ABOUT YOUR WRITING…JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE YOUNG / OLD / DISABLED / POOR / SAD / LONELY / FEMALE / FOREIGN / DID WELL AT ENGLISH AT SCHOOL / FEEL THIS IS YOUR DIVINE CALLING ETC. ETC. ETC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Would you mind fixing my car, doing my books, giving me a legal opinion, washing my windows or designing my garden for free? You don’t know me, I’m not going to pay you, and I don’t care how long it takes you. I have a need and I would like you to meet it. Oh, and I won’t even use your name when I contact you and I might not even say thank you. And I will definitely be outraged if you point out that you’re running a business and need to earn money too. Phew! I feel better now :)

It absolutely dumbfounds me that there are people in the world who do not realise (or perhaps care) that to read someone elses writing and give constructive feedback takes time. And that time either has to come out of my paid work time or my precious personal time. In other words it will cost me time or money and usually both to do you a favour.  When I want someone to provide me with a professional service, I expect to pay for it.  Believe it or not, I actually pay other people to critique my writing and give me feedback too. Here are my critiquing rates and services.

So is there something I will do for free? Well yes, I will give a little bit of advice, here or there, to specific questions that simply require a short answer. You’d be amazed though the number of times I’ve taken the trouble to answer a question by email and no one has bothered to say thank you.

There is also a host of free advice on this website already. If asked I can give you a link to specific articles that will address your need. I don’t mind doing this. Or you can do a key word search and see if there’s something here for you.

I also provide free creative writing and non-fiction courses.  Most people, as you will see from the comments on the first page, appreciate this and say thank you, but there are many others who contact me to say they are upset that the free course does not also provide free critiques!

Over Christmas I had the following requests to provide a free service:

  • to edit an article for a college newspaper
  • to review and critique a full novel (this man expected me to buy the novel – which he had self-published – before providing him the free service)
  • to help someone write better English
  • to mentor someone to become a writer
  • to give a comprehensive list of writing groups in a particular area – just Google it!
  • to put a writer in touch with a publisher who will publish her work – I’m not an agent!
  • to write a letter of reccomendation to a mainstream publisher (oh, but first I would need to read the novel)
  • or the very vague ‘I want to be a writer. What can you do for me?’
  • and finally, the most galling of all – will I type up someone’s hand-written novel for them. Seeing I’m an ‘expert’ it won’t take me long!

I know most published writers who read this will be shuddering in agreement. I’m sure you’ve all received similar requests. If you have, post them below and we can all indulge in some laughter therapy. But if you are one of the people who sends these sort of requests to writers on the web or even friends or acquintances who happen to be writers, please stop and consider someone other than yourself.

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6 comments on “Can you look at my writing for free?

  1. Althea on said:

    Finally gave in to the urge. Well done!!! Now keep this on your site somewhere and anytime anyone asks for free services, post the link….

  2. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Ten thousands blessings be upon you!

    I am a writer and sadly some people know it. I can’t tell you the number of friends, friends of friends and even friends of friends of friends who ask for something for nothing. I’m sure it is ten times worse for you.

    “Would you write this for me? I’m in kind of a hurry.” Is a frequent request. I usually answer this question with a question — “What do you do for a living?”

    Whatever the answer, let’s say a lawyer is making the for-free request; I’ve found it best to say, “Great! I’m being taken to court next week, would you mind taking my case for free?”

    A great deal of huffiness follows and that pleases me no end.

    Thank you for saying what needs saying. Let’s hope it is heard by those who need to hear it.

    All the best and with many thanks,
    Kevin

  3. Fiona Veitch Smith on said:

    Glad I said it too, Kevin!

  4. E.J. Apostrophe on said:

    Sometimes ranting is needed compared to holding this in…if those who are asking for a review really need them, I would suggest they join Writing.com. There are PLENTY of free reviews there from Christians and non-Christians there. The people there are super-friendly and helpful.

  5. Fiona Veitch Smith on said:

    Thank you for that tip, EJ. There are lots of supportive writing communities on the web. I’ve been a member of a few of them in my time. But just a warning to people: be prepared to give as well as receive. On some of these fora people just like the ones I’ve been moaning about here post pages and pages of work and ask people for comments without ever doing the same thing in return. These places are communities and you need to engage with people on a give and take basis as well as building relationships with people. If people just see them as a source of free critiques they have the wrong ideas.

  6. Ellen on said:

    It is surely true that no one wants to pay for content, or help with their content, any longer.

    Congrats on standing your ground. =)

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