YouTube Doctorate

There may be a lot of you who don’t remember life before the internet. I grew up in a very small community, so by the time access hit us I’d already experienced some wonderfully painful things like: always having to go to the library or the encyclopedia to look something up.

Why do I mention this? Well, with how expensive college is lately, a lot of people are wondering is it even worth it? Especially now with how if you have an internet connection you can learn pretty much anything.

Now there are some careers I think do require training beyond just the internet, but in our technological age there will likely be a lot more that don’t. Take for example, graphic design. Do you really need a degree for it? Not really. Or film? Nope, not really either. These are both fields that will hire experience as much or more so than degrees—especially if you have a killer portfolio.

I always kid with people that the BFF got her YouTube doctorate to take out my stitches (but she did). There are just some things that we can learn just as well, for free, on our own.

I use the likes of YouTube and to learn a lot of things, and often if I’m passionate about those things, I learn a lot more than I would shelling out the dough for a bloated tuition.

A friend of mine says she draws right in Photoshop. When I do the Scribbles, I do it on paper first, and then import. Why not remove a couple of steps from the process? So where do I turn? YouTube.

I followed his tutorial, and came up with this.

jae scribbles kirbyAnd then I decided to get creative. One of my favorite things to doodle, for some reason, is a turtle in a top hat. Using the techniques I just learned, I applied them to my new drawing.

Jae Scribbles turtleThis I learned using YouTube as my university. It kind of gives new meaning to a “free” education, doesn’t it? I may or may not give the scribbles shading, depending on how fast I need them done, but it was certainly a lot easier drawing them on the computer rather than importing them.

And while I like Photoshop, I much prefer the capabilities Illustrator has to offer, so I’ve been trying my hand at drawing in it. There are a few more advantages, like that it’s vector art which means you can upscale as big as you like without losing quality. But I’m not as confident with shading as I am with Photoshop. It’s all a learning experience.

Postscript, my degree is in film. And while I do make media for my work, a lot more of what I do is graphic design, which is a hobby I turned into a career. Granted some of my college experience taught me about setting up a frame, but a lot of it came from working with other graphic designers, YouTube doctorates, training, and just plain figuring things out.

Don’t know how to do something? Ask the internet. It knows. Some things may take a lot more trial and error (like drawing in Illustrator). But if you’ve got the passion, you can become an expert at nearly anything.

And it makes for much easier writing research.

Do you have a YouTube doctorate in anything? Do you remember what research or learning was like pre-internet age? Do you think college is as worthwhile now as it was in the past? What do you see for the future of education?

Win the War? Wait, There’s More!


So let’s look over everything we’ve accomplished in the series so far:

  • Proper manuscript formatting is important.
  • Let your manuscript get cold before diving into major editing.
  • Read aloud to edit, read backward, switch fonts—change it up so you can see the errors.
  • Word economize!
  • Let other people read it. Friends, family, beta readers, writers groups, conferences. Get as much feedback as you can.
  • Get thick skin. Respond with dignity and grace to feedback.
  • You’ll probably have to rewrite. Accept that as part of the process.
  • Get some cred by entering contests. Also get some professional feedback this way.
  • When it’s time, consider working with an editor—especially if you’re self-publishing.

It always kills me when published authors say, “Hey, I get paid to make stuff up.” As though that’s all that goes into it. I guess they’re smiling at what they get to do for a living. But make no mistake, as I’m certain those of you who’ve been through this process already, writing is hard work. It’s some of the hardest work you can do. It’s an emotional rollercoaster ride of chaos. It’s probably like giving birth and then raising the kid to maturity. There will be moments of joy and moments of pure hell. But in the end, it’s worth it.


Suppose you’ve done all this and then some. Now what? Well, if you’ve really been through tons of drafts and had multiple people look at it, it’s time to get this thing published.

Self-pub. If you’re self-publishing, it’s time to study other self-published authors and see how they became successful. It’s also time to learn all you can about marketing your book to bring it the most success possible. It’s going to take a ton of work, so please don’t think uploading a novel to Amazon will score you instant success. You’ll have to get the word out. But plenty have done it and been successful, so learn from them.

Traditional. For those sticking to the traditional route. Now comes the fun bit we call querying.

Oh, Luke! How’d you get in here?

Anyway, if you thought all this stuff was hard, wait until you get into querying. It’s not unlike novel editing, only more intense because you have to be clever on one page instead of several.

But there are places that can help you out. Visit Janet Reid’s Query Shark blog to see the good, the bad, and the ugly—often the ugly. Learn what not to do so you do it right in your own.

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Going Pro: Creds & Eds

Welcome to the sixth post in the How to Edit Your Novel series. Now that you’ve put your novel through the ringer, and likely gone through rewrites, it’s time to look at a few options: contests, conferences, and editors.


books clip artNovels. While entering novel contests can be good exposure for your book, take caution in which contests you enter. Some may take exclusive publishing rights (like Amazon’s recent break through novel contest). Be certain you know what you’re getting into before you enter.

The contests I hope you’ll seek in particular are critique or feedback based contests. Even if it’s only the first few hundred words or first two chapters. For example, awhile back I won a first chapter critique from Aimee Salter. Her feedback was immensely helpful, and it’s something she does professionally.

I know I keep mentioning Pitch Wars, but I got a lot of great feedback from it too, especially from my mentor Marieke. And recently I entered the Cupid’s Literary Connection contest. I didn’t win, but I got helpful feedback there too–especially on my query. Feedback can be just as valuable as a win. Plus you can see how your novel stacks up among the works of your peers.

Short Stories. Whenever you need a break from the novel, or need to put it in cold storage, it’s the perfect opportunity to write something else–flash fiction, short stories, novellas, etc. This is where the creds part comes in. Winning a contest where your work is published in something gives you credentials for your query letter. It’s no guarantee, obviously, but anything you can do to stand out in the submission pile and catch an agent’s eye is worth the effort.

Even if you plan to self-pub, never hurts to be able to say “winner of the…” whether on your book or in your bio. You want to catch that reader’s eye.

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Edit Wars: Rewrites Strike Back

star wars meme editingWelcome to the fifth post in the How to Edit Your Novel series. Let’s see… At this point you’ve had beta readers, you’ve edited, and then the realization hits. This thing needs improvement. Not just typo fixes and quick word re-arranging. I mean substantial restructuring!


Seriously, that’s how it can feel sometimes. What about all that work I’ve already done? I’ve already spent months/years on this thing! Ugh, I want to be published yesterday. Etc. Etc.

But the thing is, how dedicated are you to your story? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to make it the best it can be? Really?

I remember coming back from a conference totally deflated. I’d been through a Donald Maass workshop, and I knew my novel needed work—a lot of work. Could I really go through all that? Did I really want to? It took me a few weeks of mulling things over, but I decided it had to be done. So I spent the summer rewriting.

And you know what? I had a much better story. Much better.

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Don’t Fear the Feedback

Just change the word reaper to feedback and let that play as a soundtrack for you mind. Don’t Fear the Feedback—the fourth installment of the How to Edit Your Novel series.


closetYou may get your feedback face to face or you may get it in an email, but the most important thing when receiving feedback is to receive it with dignity and grace. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. Whoever is telling you what they think is wrong with your story took the time to read the thing. Even if you think they are 100% wrong (unlikely) they deserve your thanks for making the effort.

So at the very least, I want you to memorize this phrase: Thank you for your feedback. You’ve given me a lot to think about.

Your first reaction may be to explain why you wrote it the way you did. Don’t. You may feel like you need to defend your work. Don’t. You may even be inclined to tell them why they don’t know what they’re talking about. Definitely don’t.

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