What is this site? Who’s it for?
Dear Story Nurse,
- I keep revising the beginning of my book instead of moving on to the next part.
- My fun side character is trying to take over my serious story.
- I wrote down this cool dream but it doesn’t make any sense outside my head. I don’t know how to turn it into something people will want to read.
- When will I know that I’ve done enough research and it’s time to start writing?
- I’m at the end of my book and don’t know how to wrap everything up.
If you’ve run into writing problems like these, the Story Nurse is here to help you!
Story Hospital is an advice column published on four Tuesdays a month. Each column answers a writer’s question about their work in progress. These columns are focused on the craft and practice of writing. I don’t tell you how to get an agent or quit your day job; I get right into the heart of the relationship between the author and the work.
You can read each column on the Story Hospital website or on Patreon.
I need help from the Story Nurse! How do I submit a question?
Go to this page and it will tell you exactly what to do.
What’s a story hospital?
At Readercon in 2016, I ran a program item called “Story Hospital” where writers got to have three 10-minute one-on-one conversations with story nurses (professional editors, teachers, longtime writers, critics, etc.) and fellow writers about their struggles with their current work in progress. It was a fantastic success. The writers found that condensing the explanation and discussion of their particular difficulties into just 10 minutes brought an amazing degree of clarity. I realized that an advice column would have the same advantages, with the bonus that other people could learn from each brief exchange of problem and solution. (And it wouldn’t be as noisy as 40 people having 20 conversations at once.) So I’m bringing Story Hospital to the world.
Who are you?
My name is Rose Fox and I’m a lifelong reader with a special fondness for genre fiction. My parents are writers and I grew up critiquing my mother’s manuscripts. On my first day at NYU, I red-penned the student newspaper (a weekday daily) and got a job as their junior copy editor; as a sophomore I became their youngest-ever copy chief. Shortly after leaving school, I launched a freelance career as a book reviewer, journalist, and book editor.Now I’m a senior reviews editor and copy editor at Publishers Weekly with more than 100 published book reviews and articles under my belt, I co-edited Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History with Daniel José Older (Crossed Genres, 2014), and I’ve edited dozens of books for self-published authors.
I’m also passionate about teaching and helping people. I volunteer as a mentor for teen writers and spent three years as Readercon’s program chair, helping to create a world-renowned conference program that inspires and energizes hundreds of writers and readers every year. Teaching is my favorite part of book editing, too. Nothing makes me happier than that moment when I make something click for a writer or help them fall in love with their work all over again.
And lastly, I’m a novice author. I’m making very slow progress on two novels at the moment, and learning a tremendous amount about myself and what writing feels like from the inside. So I know just how hard it is to wrestle with a story, and I want to help make it easier for you and all my readers.
Your site is awesome! How can I support you and get cool perks?
I’m so glad you asked! You can become a patron on Patreon for just $1 a month and get four extra posts a year, early access to the regular columns, and my undying gratitude. If you increase your Patreon pledge you can get access to an amazing community of writers, inspirational postcards, and much more!
Do I have to be a Patreon patron to ask a question?
Anyone can ask a question. But patrons at the Ask level get to put their questions in a priority queue, from which I will draw at least one of my four questions per month.
I especially encourage marginalized writers to ask questions, including writers of color, queer and trans writers, young and beginning writers, and disabled writers. (You do not need to reveal any personal information in your letter.) Part of my mission is to provide help and support to those who don’t get a lot of it within their communities. I’m queer, non-binary trans, mixed white and Jewish, and disabled; I’m not perfect and I don’t know everything, but I do understand what it’s like to be at the margins and to struggle with marginalization-related craft questions such as how and whether to write about people like myself, what to expect from a mainstream audience, and how to do historical research on marginalized people and communities when the official record is patchy at best. I will do my very best to handle every question with the thoughtful sensitivity it deserves. If I feel I’m not equipped to answer a question, I won’t just reject it; I’ll do my best to find someone who can give it a kind and knowledgeable answer.
Can I ask about nonfiction writing, academic writing, picture book writing…?
Absolutely. My expertise is in genre fiction for adults, but I’m happy to tackle any question about any writing work in progress. However, I can’t answer general questions about writing careers, getting published, finding an agent, and so on. (If that’s the sort of question you have, try sending it to the Blunt Instrument.) I also can’t evaluate any excerpts from your work. (If that’s something you’d like, try Death of 1000 Cuts.)
How often do you make posts?
Posts go up on the first, second, third, and fourth Tuesdays of the month. If you’re a patron at any level, you’ll get to read posts on Sundays, two days early. You’ll also get to read special bonus posts in months with five Tuesdays (there are four of those a year). Each post answers one question submitted by a real writer—no filler!
What are your Patreon funding goals?
I have a full-time job, so I’m here to have fun and help people, and all my funding goals are about having even more fun and giving even more help. At $512/month, I’ll start doing a monthly podcast. At $1024/month, I’ll hire talented design professionals, at industry standard rates or better, to make the annual Story Hospital e-book (which goes out to all patrons at the Acquire level and above) look amazing.
Some of your Patreon pledge levels involve something called Slack. What’s that?
Slack is a communication service for workplaces and communities. For our purposes, it’s a collection of chat rooms for conversations on different topics related to writing (and some space for off-topic discussions too).
My goal with the Story Hospital Slack is to create a community where writers help and support one another. I’m a longtime fan of the Captain Awkward advice blog, and a couple of years ago some other Captain Awkward fans created a forum called Friends of Captain Awkward that’s one of the most kind and supportive spaces I’ve ever had the pleasure of spending time in. It turns out that people who like reading advice also like giving it. And as much as I’d like to answer every question I get, there’s just no way for me to do that. So the Story Hospital Slack is a place to ask and answer questions about writing, build connections with other writers, and have a good time.
The only caveats for Story Hospital Slack: you must abide by the code of conduct (posted here), and you only have access to it while you’re an active patron of the Story Hospital Patreon at the Interact level or higher. You pay nothing to use it and can access it through Android and iOS apps, Windows and Mac desktop apps, and your favorite web browser.
Why do you have a pledge level where half the money goes to charity?
It’s very important to me to support charities that are helping struggling members of my communities. If you become a patron at the Give level, you’ll know that you’re helping others even as Story Hospital helps you. Publicizing that pledge level lets me promote charities that are dear to my heart—such as Con or Bust, which helps people of color attend speculative fiction conventions, and SFWA’s Givers Fund, which supports a wide variety of nonprofit organizations in the speculative fiction realm—and helps to make charitable giving an ordinary, everyday thing to do.
I have a question that you didn’t answer!
If it’s a question for the Story Nurse, ask it here.
If it’s a general question about the site, drop me a note: