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How do you know when you are writing at a "professional" level (1 Viewer)

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
I watch a traditionally published author on youtube and she is pantser (like me.) She talks about editing and her editing process. Since she pantses the majority of what she writes, she does a lot of editing even scene changes/ recasts scenes after hearing the advice of her editor. I've heard some people tell me they don't do major changes after their first draft. Planners tend to not do as many edits but still I find it interesting that others dont feel the need to make major changes. I am currently working on restructuring scenes and getting better at re-envisioning my ideas for pacing, flow and continuity. I'm not worried about getting a deal or anything right now. My level is not where it needs to be for querying...besides i'd have to finish a novel first to even consider that lool.
ANYWHO my point is editing needs to be done no matter what Novice or professional. How do you know you are at the level to even bother with querying? Is it based on what others may tell you? What you think?
 

Cephus

Senior Member
You're a professional when you can successfully sell your work. Lots of people have a very unrealistic expectation when ti comes to writing. They think this is easy. It is not. Everyone needs to revise repeatedly when they are starting out. Everyone. I don't care what you tell yourself, you're wrong if you are not spending the time editing and refining your work. It's only once you've been doing it for a very long time, once you've refined your process and know what a successful book looks like, that the procedure gets streamlined. The simple fact is, for the vast majority of people putting their work out there to agents, it's just not good enough yet. That's why it just sits in a pile, rejected or never seriously read.
 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
You're a professional when you can successfully sell your work.
How do you know when you are writing on a professional level is a bit different then how do you know you are a professional. There are people like influencers who sell there work and sell it well and didn't even use a ghost writer but its not necessarily considered that good or "professional." They only got a deal because they are famous. Since they sold successfully would you still consider that writing at a "professional level"? Personally I don't think so. There are many factors that play into whether you sell your work successfully or not. Success doesn't = quality or good prose.
Lots of people have a very unrealistic expectation when ti comes to writing. They think this is easy. It is not. Everyone needs to revise repeatedly when they are starting out. Everyone.
I totally agree. I know my work needs multiple revisions and even a person who sold their book explains how she still has to do edits even after getting a deal. So I get surprised when I hear someone say they don't do a whole lot of revising or don't plan to.
I don't care what you tell yourself, you're wrong if you are not spending the time editing and refining your work. It's only once you've been doing it for a very long time, once you've refined your process and know what a successful book looks like, that the procedure gets streamlined.
How do you know what a successful book looks like if you never attempted to even query? Comparing your work to others out there? How do you know its worth your time to query? When you perfected your process? Sorry i'm a bit confused on what you mean exactly. Knowing your process is important. I'm still learning mine, one of the many reasons why I'm not even worrying about querying but just curious of other peoples opinions/ experiences.
The simple fact is, for the vast majority of people putting their work out there to agents, it's just not good enough yet. That's why it just sits in a pile, rejected or never seriously read.
Are you saying most work gets rejected because they didn't take the time to do more editing/ revising? Or they weren't ready to query in general? My point was how do you know your writing is good enough to potentially compete with the market/other work in the market. (even after revising) Wing it and see? 😆
 

robertn51

Friends of WF
How do you know when you are writing at a "professional" level?

We know...

...when we can tell the difference between performing writing and creating story. This takes honesty.

...when we can read our stuff as a surprised reader and not the whispering puppet lips of the omniscient writer who created it. This takes honesty and effort.

...when we can read the other stuff being published and can see why the publisher chose it over the things we are wringing our hands over sending them. This takes honesty and effort and community.

...when we can read the other stuff being published and can see our own writing's strengths and weaknesses within other people's successes. This takes honesty and effort and community and humility.

...when we do not at all mind generously rewriting it one more time to get it truer to us and better for them. This takes honesty and effort and community and humility and love.

While slowly writing this, feeling the way through this, I've been listening to Sharon Van Etten's 2019 album "Remind Me Tomorrow." (Except I have to skip Seventeen for now: there's work yet to be done today and, for a while after that one, I will not be able to see and think clearly.)

Something about this talented person's work is so open, honest, generous, and a little scary, challenging. Like a failure in the desperately honest success of existing.

Like daring to write.

In the liner notes for the CD she has a section labeled "Recommended Listening." In there she lists sixty-one contemporary musicians/groups.

Sixty-one "competitors."

...when we generously and hopefully list dozens of our "competitors" in the "Recommended Reading" section of our books, regardless of our publishers.
 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
We know...

...when we can tell the difference between performing writing and creating story. This takes honesty.

...when we can read our stuff as a surprised reader and not the whispering puppet lips of the omniscient writer who created it. This takes honesty and effort.

...when we can read the other stuff being published and can see why the publisher chose it over the things we are wringing our hands over sending them. This takes honesty and effort and community.

...when we can read the other stuff being published and can see our own writing's strengths and weaknesses within other people's successes. This takes honesty and effort and community and humility.

...when we do not at all mind generously rewriting it one more time to get it truer to us and better for them. This takes honesty and effort and community and humility and love.



...when we generously and hopefully list dozens of our "competitors" in the "Recommended Reading" section of our books, regardless of our publishers.
so when you are willing to work hard and be humble about your work yes? :)

a bit off topic, but you judged with me last LM challenge. Were you going to enter this month? I believe you said on another post you were wanting to. I am entering. I just gotta do some edits first :)
 

Cephus

Senior Member
How do you know when you are writing on a professional level is a bit different then how do you know you are a professional. There are people like influencers who sell there work and sell it well and didn't even use a ghost writer but its not necessarily considered that good or "professional." They only got a deal because they are famous. Since they sold successfully would you still consider that writing at a "professional level"? Personally I don't think so. There are many factors that play into whether you sell your work successfully or not. Success doesn't = quality or good prose.

I don't consider celebrities to be worthwhile, ever. If they're banking on name recognition, that doesn't count. If you're a nobody that can consistently convince people to buy, enjoy and recommend your books, that's really all that matters.

I totally agree. I know my work needs multiple revisions and even a person who sold their book explains how she still has to do edits even after getting a deal. So I get surprised when I hear someone say they don't do a whole lot of revising or don't plan to.

I don't do a ton of revising and neither do a lot of professional authors. Mostly, they've spent decades of their lives learning how to write it right the first time. Once you know how to use language, once you know how plot structure works and how to hit proper story beats and write something interesting for your audience, you don't have to keep going back time and time again to revisit it. Again, if you can sell your books, you've got to be doing something right. I just finished editing a book today. I changed a lot of words throughout and I think I added 1500 words or so to the final product but I didn't have to change any plot points or story beats. Sometime in the next couple of weeks, I'll bundle it up with the cover that I've already got done, add in all of the front matter, etc. and send it off to my beta readers. I don't expect to have to make any major changes based on their recommendations but you never know.

How do you know what a successful book looks like if you never attempted to even query? Comparing your work to others out there? How do you know its worth your time to query? When you perfected your process? Sorry i'm a bit confused on what you mean exactly. Knowing your process is important. I'm still learning mine, one of the many reasons why I'm not even worrying about querying but just curious of other peoples opinions/ experiences.

Are you saying most work gets rejected because they didn't take the time to do more editing/ revising? Or they weren't ready to query in general? My point was how do you know your writing is good enough to potentially compete with the market/other work in the market. (even after revising) Wing it and see? 😆

My agent is pretty clear that if people send him things that he has to struggle to get through the page, he just puts it down. You need to be able to produce a saleable package, period. While it is true that any worthwhile traditional publisher is going to go through with their own editors, they're not going to take a mess up front and fix it on their own. They are making alterations for saleability. They want a product that they can make money with. They are not going to take a complete disaster and figure they can fix it in the edit. I see a lot of people who say "I shouldn't have to do editing on my own because the publisher is going to do it for me for free!" If you can't send them something worth looking at first though, you'll never reach that point.
 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
I don't consider celebrities to be worthwhile, ever. If they're banking on name recognition, that doesn't count. If you're a nobody that can consistently convince people to buy, enjoy and recommend your books, that's really all that matters.



I don't do a ton of revising and neither do a lot of professional authors. Mostly, they've spent decades of their lives learning how to write it right the first time. Once you know how to use language, once you know how plot structure works and how to hit proper story beats and write something interesting for your audience, you don't have to keep going back time and time again to revisit it. Again, if you can sell your books, you've got to be doing something right. I just finished editing a book today. I changed a lot of words throughout and I think I added 1500 words or so to the final product but I didn't have to change any plot points or story beats. Sometime in the next couple of weeks, I'll bundle it up with the cover that I've already got done, add in all of the front matter, etc. and send it off to my beta readers. I don't expect to have to make any major changes based on their recommendations but you never know.



My agent is pretty clear that if people send him things that he has to struggle to get through the page, he just puts it down. You need to be able to produce a saleable package, period. While it is true that any worthwhile traditional publisher is going to go through with their own editors, they're not going to take a mess up front and fix it on their own. They are making alterations for saleability. They want a product that they can make money with. They are not going to take a complete disaster and figure they can fix it in the edit. I see a lot of people who say "I shouldn't have to do editing on my own because the publisher is going to do it for me for free!" If you can't send them something worth looking at first though, you'll never reach that point.
Okay, I have a better understanding of what you meant in your first post. It makes sense. I wrote and story and didn't complete because I it was a mess and it was garbage 🗑️🌈✨ the pacing was off, my idea kept changing and it just wasn't good. Im working on tightening my prose and learning about story structure because it's quite evident I didn't know what that was 😆 I am playing with scenes and pacing to learn and get better at it. Maybe one day it won't be word vomit.
I appreciate your straight forward replies. I agree with a lot of your points that you make.

So your a traditionally published author?
I don't know much about publishing. I figure it does me no good to worry about it if I don't even have a product to introduce lol but still interesting to hear about the process. When I first heard about all the steps to get a work published my mind was blown 😆
 

robertn51

Friends of WF
so when you are willing to work hard and be humble about your work yes?
Yes. But don't slide over the important bit: You must be reading the kind of work you want to write. Reading and truly understanding what it was that made it valuable to its readers and publisher. If you don't read well and deeply and still intend to write, well, that's a bit like driving a car with your hands in your lap and your eyes closed. Exciting, sure, but aimless.

a bit off topic, but you judged with me last LM challenge. Were you going to enter this month? I believe you said on another post you were wanting to. I am entering. I just gotta do some edits first
I am both working on an entry and will judge again this month. I intended to enter last month, too, but things blew up. This month, if I keep farting around up here wasting my writing time, I again won't have a submission done by the deadline. But either way I'll be judging again, for certain. I'm not a short-short form writer and have so much to learn. There were some positively brilliant things created last month and I want to understand them. Judging forces me into the structured, goal-driven reading I need.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
It just comes from experience and listening to published authors. Take my recent entry in the 'Not for critique' thread. That isn't anywhere near professional enough. In fact I hate it now. On the other hand, my new beginning for chapter 1 IS professional enough.
 

Turnbull

Senior Member
Honestly, I think that this isn't a thing we should ask ourselves. It reeks of comparing ourselves to others, and that's not really a good thing a lot of the time. Basically just pursue what you're good at as a writer (world, character, style, or whatever) and do your best to improve your perceived weaknesses. Writing at a top skill level seems like something other people would notice in your work sooner than you would, because you can't really be too objective about that concerning yourself.
 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
Yes. But don't slide over the important bit: You must be reading the kind of work you want to write. Reading and truly understanding what it was that made it valuable to its readers and publisher. If you don't read well and deeply and still intend to write, well, that's a bit like driving a car with your hands in your lap and your eyes closed. Exciting, sure, but aimless.
Yep and that's why I've been kicking myself to start reading again. I was doing a lot earlier this year but slowed down. Getting myself back in it. It's a good motivator and its inspiring.
I am both working on an entry and will judge again this month. I intended to enter last month, too, but things blew up. This month, if I keep farting around up here wasting my writing time, I again won't have a submission done by the deadline. But either way I'll be judging again, for certain. I'm not a short-short form writer and have so much to learn. There were some positively brilliant things created last month and I want to understand them. Judging forces me into the structured, goal-driven reading I need.
Last month I planned to enter but it didn't happen. But I got myself going and I must say I struggled a lot. Gonna clean it up and enter it soon. Last month was crazy! So many entered and I was impressed at how much story could be fit in 650 or below words. I haven't seen a lot posted for this month so far
 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
Honestly, I think that this isn't a thing we should ask ourselves. It reeks of comparing ourselves to others, and that's not really a good thing a lot of the time. Basically just pursue what you're good at as a writer (world, character, style, or whatever) and do your best to improve your perceived weaknesses. Writing at a top skill level seems like something other people would notice in your work sooner than you would, because you can't really be too objective about that concerning yourself.
I don't really compare my writing to others or I try not to. it's better to compare yourself with yourself. It's not about top skill level and who the better writer is. It's knowing when you have a shot with querying or just even being a proficient writer. How much editing is enough editing? Everyone edits and just because you had to edit your work a lot doesn't mean your not good a writing. That's why I ask myself, well how do you know your good or what would make someone want to pursue querying? At my level, even if I did completed something it would probably be a waste of time to query no matter how many edits I did LOL. For example would you want to pursue getting an agent when you finished your first book or maybe wait until your third? Would you see what kind of feedback you got to estimate your abilities? I don't think you have to constantly compare yourself to others to figure out where your at. It might be more of what others say about your work more than what you say. Like you were pointing out you can't be objective about your work so how can you tell you are "any good" 😆
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
First, forget anything about acceptance by an agent or an editor at a publisher. That's a total crapshoot. I know some fantastic writers who can't sell, and some dodgy writers who've gotten lucky. But it IS true that the better the quality the story and writing, the better chance you have. Crap isn't going to sell regardless of luck. :)

The best gauge is when STRANGERS start comparing you to published authors, and tell you they enjoyed your material with no "buts" ... or at least not very many. Most readers will have a quibble here or there about a plot choice. That's irrelevant.

So how do you get there?

The smart aspiring writer will learn all the technical elements and how to recognize their application or misapplication. They learn storytelling and pacing, and a lot of that comes from experience as a reader. And they're going to write a lot, then learn how to read back through and find improvements.

You've got two main elements: good sentences and good storytelling. The skills are mutually exclusive, and both must be mastered. So when you know your writing has both, you're creating professional level work. And now we've come back to what strangers tell you when they read you.
 
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KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
First, forget anything about acceptance by an agent or an editor at a publisher. That's a total crapshoot. I know some fantastic writers who can't sell, and some dodgy writers who've gotten lucky. But it IS true that the better the quality the story and writing, the better chance you have. Crap isn't going to sell regardless of luck. :)
That's what also makes it harder to tell where you stand imo. Lol unfortunately there is some work that has gotten popular and sold when their prose or their even story telling wasn't great. Example I gave in a reply was influencers. Regardless of some outlines their is a general standard out there that usually needs to be met. What that standard is-well that is an idk. Probably because I'm not there yet. The more I learn it's like the bigger the mountain gets not smaller. Lool
The best gauge is when STRANGERS start comparing you to published authors, and tell you they enjoyed your material with no "buts" ... or at least not very many. Most readers will have a quibble here or there about a plot choice. That's irrelevant.

So how do you get there?

The smart aspiring writer will learn all the technical elements and how to recognize their application or misapplication. They learn storytelling and pacing, and a lot of that comes from experience as a reader. And they're going to write a lot, then learn how to read back through and find improvements.

You've got two main elements: good sentences and good storytelling. The skills are mutually exclusive, and both must be mastered. So when you know your writing has both, you're creating professional level work. And now we've come back to what strangers tell you when they read you.
Breaking it down in two distinct sections like that helps with perspective. Im still working on something. Its gonna be a longer piece and I am still brainstorming. Last time I started a big story is became a mess and I didn't complete it but this time I'm hoping to complete something. Even it becomes a big hot mess at least it's a completed hot mess which is a step above from last time lool
 

Cephus

Senior Member
Honestly, I think that this isn't a thing we should ask ourselves. It reeks of comparing ourselves to others, and that's not really a good thing a lot of the time. Basically just pursue what you're good at as a writer (world, character, style, or whatever) and do your best to improve your perceived weaknesses. Writing at a top skill level seems like something other people would notice in your work sooner than you would, because you can't really be too objective about that concerning yourself.

Yet you really have to on some level. You need to be honest enough to look at your work and the work of other successful authors and be able to tell if yours and theirs are on roughly the same level. That requires honesty and the ability to step back and read as a reader does.
 

JBF

Staff member
Global Moderator
I watch a traditionally published author on youtube and she is pantser (like me.) She talks about editing and her editing process. Since she pantses the majority of what she writes, she does a lot of editing even scene changes/ recasts scenes after hearing the advice of her editor.

Strictly opinion, but if I was getting significant rewriting advice that called for major structural changes, I'd probably hold off sending anything else until I figured out what my issue was. Or alternately, whether it is an issue.

I've heard some people tell me they don't do major changes after their first draft. Planners tend to not do as many edits but still I find it interesting that others dont feel the need to make major changes.

I have a pet conspiracy I call the Pencil Theory.

Look at your average bone-stock No.2 yellow pencil. Consider the quantity of lead versus the size of the eraser. In the beginning, somebody learning to write is going to burn rubber like there's no tomorrow. Or chew the erasers off because stress. Whichever. More practiced writers don't. Not because they don't screw up (they do) but because they recognize the root issues and learn to either steer around early or have the dynamite on hand for those prize obstacles.

Point is, the more practice you get with the lead, the less you need the rubber. Stories tend to run the same way; eventually you get comfortable enough with what you're doing and how you go about it that your initial run gets you close enough you only need minor alterations to bring it all into line.

I am currently working on restructuring scenes and getting better at re-envisioning my ideas for pacing, flow and continuity. I'm not worried about getting a deal or anything right now. My level is not where it needs to be for querying...besides i'd have to finish a novel first to even consider that lool.

Finishing stuff is for quitters. :p

ANYWHO my point is editing needs to be done no matter what Novice or professional. How do you know you are at the level to even bother with querying? Is it based on what others may tell you? What you think?

I got published once. Nothing major. My trick was writing the whole sorry mess and revising every two or three days until I could read it through without hating the result. It's a little like machine work in that regard. First a piece has to pass the eyeball test. If it looks okay it has to pass the fingertip test. If you can't see or feel any imperfections you check with the calibrated instruments. Eventually you either trash it or figure it meets or exceeds the standard.

The standard is a whole other concern, however.
 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
Strictly opinion, but if I was getting significant rewriting advice that called for major structural changes, I'd probably hold off sending anything else until I figured out what my issue was. Or alternately, whether it is an issue.
Well that's the interesting part. She already has an agent and got a book deal before and was talking about her most recent published book. I can send a link to the video. But she basically talked about changing the setting in scenes to make it more interesting like the characters already knowing a piece of info vs discovering it. Which I find to be a pretty big change.
Now if we are talking about yours truly, I get constant advice to fix things, cuz I can't write in general. Makes me curious to what is considered "okay" or "good enough" before getting into the knitting gritty details. This thread isn't asking if I write on a professional level because the answer is no and I know it's no lol but I've heard the term "writing at a professional level" and I'm like what does that mean exactly? And how do you know when you are esp if you haven't been published yet or even attempted it?
I have a pet conspiracy I call the Pencil Theory.

Look at your average bone-stock No.2 yellow pencil. Consider the quantity of lead versus the size of the eraser. In the beginning, somebody learning to write is going to burn rubber like there's no tomorrow. Or chew the erasers off because stress. Whichever. More practiced writers don't. Not because they don't screw up (they do) but because they recognize the root issues and learn to either steer around early or have the dynamite on hand for those prize obstacles.
Well I would necessarily call that a conspiracy more like ur usual analogy lol
I compare writing to drawing a lot. When I first started drawing the eraser marks were bad. I can draw with easing a lot less and sometimes depending on the piece, I can just go in right away with color, no sketch or barely a sketch and boom something decent comes out. With that said, there are plenty of things I cant draw without a reference or a decent sketch...depends what it is. I should probably work on getting better at those things but I've been more focused on writing so..🤷🏼‍♀️
Point is, the more practice you get with the lead, the less you need the rubber. Stories tend to run the same way; eventually you get comfortable enough with what you're doing and how you go about it that your initial run gets you close enough you only need minor alterations to bring it all into line.
Ive been hanging out with the back space/ cut and paste button a lot. Were becoming good friends. Which is interesting because before I wouldn't even bother that much with them. Especially cut n paste. So atleast I'm more aware that I need to erase and redraw parts instead of leaving it. Though I'm still good at that too, sometimes I just wait for others to point out something I knew was wrong just to see if I can get away with it (lol no) or confirm my suspicion Lol
Finishing stuff is for quitters. :p



I got published once. Nothing major. My trick was writing the whole sorry mess and revising every two or three days until I could read it through without hating the result. It's a little like machine work in that regard. First a piece has to pass the eyeball test. If it looks okay it has to pass the fingertip test. If you can't see or feel any imperfections you check with the calibrated instruments. Eventually you either trash it or figure it meets or exceeds the standard.
Looks like everything I write is getting trashed 🗑️ ✨
The standard is a whole other concern, however.
Whats the standard?
How many licks does it take to get to the center of the tootsie roll of a tootsie pop? The world may never know 😆
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
If you changed this question to say "How do I know if I'm any good or not yet?" then I think it's normal to ask ourselves this, especially as a beginning writer.
I don't have an answer for you or me, and I am a beginning writer and I wonder this.

Things I ask myself: Did I get something meaningful out of writing what I did? Was it honest, even vulnerable (which means courageous--- like what you've done here, I see)? If so, I feel it is bound to find a place in someone else's heart at some point.
I hope that I touch more hearts than one, but I can't waste time worrying. I am okay moving forward with who I am and what I've got to offer.

I guess the thing is... would I ever stop writing? No. Never would. It's enough for me to know that. From what I understand a lot of people would try their hand and quit. I think if someone has always felt like they wanted to write and always felt they had something to say, then they keep at it. If you spend a lot of time on it then you can't help but get really good. I think we will know it when that happens because people will let us know that the writing meant something to them.
 

JBF

Staff member
Global Moderator
...usual analogy lol

It ain't easy being a self-propelled fortune cookie.

Though I'm still good at that too, sometimes I just wait for others to point out something I knew was wrong just to see if I can get away with it (lol no) or confirm my suspicion

I feel this on a deep personal level.

Looks like everything I write is getting trashed 🗑️ ✨

Ain't writing fun?

How many licks does it take to get to the center of the tootsie roll of a tootsie pop? The world may never know 😆

Dunno. If my nightly trawling ever turns up an unopened sample I'll get back to you with results. This seems important. For science.
 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
If you changed this question to say "How do I know if I'm any good or not yet?" then I think it's normal to ask ourselves this, especially as a beginning writer.
I don't have an answer for you or me, and I am a beginning writer and I wonder this.
Well I framed it as "writing on a professional level" specifically because thats how I heard her word it before (the author on YouTube). Kinda threw me off because how do you even know what a writing at a professional level is? Especially when some authors end up making a lot of revisions to their work. And the final product you get in ur hards isn't the first draft.

Simply being a good writer doesn't = "writing at a professional level" though, right? I assumed she was talking about being at a level where you might be able to get an agent (since she is a traditionally published author) but then again I'm not sure. I'm not the best a framing questions but that's where that specific wording came from instead of asking "how do you know your a good writer."
Things I ask myself: Did I get something meaningful out of writing what I did? Was it honest, even vulnerable (which means courageous--- like what you've done here, I see)? If so, I feel it is bound to find a place in someone else's heart at some point.
I hope that I touch more hearts than one, but I can't waste time worrying. I am okay moving forward with who I am and what I've got to offer.

I guess the thing is... would I ever stop writing? No. Never would. It's enough for me to know that. From what I understand a lot of people would try their hand and quit. I think if someone has always felt like they wanted to write and always felt they had something to say, then they keep at it. If you spend a lot of time on it then you can't help but get really good. I think we will know it when that happens because people will let us know that the writing meant something to them.
Yeah writing is a hard. People think it's easy but it's not. I thought it was a lot easier than it is at first but then I stopped being ignorant when I realized my writing is a mess and its gonna take a lot of work to get anywhere with it. But I've always wanted to tell a story so if I want to do that. I gotta learn how to write and write a lot.
 
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