Beta Reading Process Part 3: The Data

This is the final part of an ongoing series about the beta reading process. To read the previous entries, visit Part I and Part II.

All right. You’ve wrapped up the beta reading process, and depending on the number of beta readers you had, you might have a lot of data to pore over. It can overwhelming, particularly if there is a lot of constructive comments. Heck, it might also have you seeing red because your manuscript is your special baby. That is why you, dear writer, need to take a deep breath and step back. Sure, browse the comments, read all of them from each beta reader, but don’t act on them, at least not yet. Continue reading

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Beta Reading Process Part 2: Writers vs. Readers

Diving further into the beta reading process, this time around we’re going to explore the readers themselves. Who makes the better beta reader, fellow writers or straight-up readers? Well, I’m afraid there will be no concrete answer to this question; however, I will share my own observations, because these two groups did bring different input to the table during the beta process.

For starters, I had three fellow writers (two who finished) and four readers — a good mix all said and done, and I highly recommend a good mix between the lot.  In particular, I noticed that the straight-up readers tended to finish the manuscript faster; two were scary fast and have already been sniffing around for the sequel (I need to get on that). Readers brought up some great points up, some of which were shared by the writers, but for the most part were very light on their comments and not as critical. I like to say they rolled with the punches. They were patient and waited until the end to draw conclusions, much like one would do with a published novel — to a point. Continue reading

Beta Readers, A Method

Beta readers provide feedback prior to querying or before self-publishing. They often provide invaluable pointers regarding a manuscript, though some might also be slackers. It happens.

Currently, I’m wrapping up additional revisions to my sci-fi novel, Heritage Lost. This has been a long ongoing project that undoubtedly, if you routinely follow my blog, you’ve read about and might be wondering “How long is she going to ticker with it?” Well, after continuing to hit a brick wall in querying process, I dialed back and decided to complete a portion of the writing process that most writers complete: aka the beta reader process.

I skipped over this not because I hadn’t seen any value to the process, but due to some personal hang-ups (I’d been burned once) and my alpha readers had all been extremely positive. However, when I received a string of basic form letter rejections, I decided I needed more eyes on it — specifically reader eyes. My alternative motive was I’m deeply considering self-publishing. It is still my goal to query more agents and a couple of publishers that accept unsolicited manuscripts, but I’m also viewing self-publishing as more viable, and I wanted an idea of how my book might be received by a variety of readers.

So I embarked on the beta reading process and gleaned quite a bit from the experience, with some readers confirming some of the concerns I harbored on a few points after my last read-through. I also learned a lot about the beta reading process, and what I’d do differently next time. Continue reading

UPDATE: Announcing Project YA Editorial Extension

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Rachelle and I are extending the Project YA Editorial contest! The new deadline will be Sunday, Oct. 30, so be sure to get your short stories around. The theme is still Follow the White Rabbit, and we want stories featuring a tattoo, or tattoos, as an integral part to the overall plot. She and I will then be combing through the entries up until Sunday, Nov. 20, when we will announce the top five finalists.

Young writers don’t miss this chance to win in-depth assessment of your writing and free professional editing services. Additionally, we will be awarding a super helpful book, The Emotion Thesaurus, to the grand prize winner. The grand prize winner will be chosen Sunday, Dec. 18, and their story will be featured on both this site and Rachelle’s.

For more information, visit http://rachellemnshaw.com/project-ya-editorial/.

Now Accepting Submissions for Project YA Editorial 2016!

(Note: Exciting news, everyone! Rachelle Shaw and I will be holding a contest geared toward young writers. Check out the details–written by Rachelle–below! –SW)The official launch of the first contest for Project YA Editorial is finally here! As a campaign dedicated to helping young authors get their start in the publishing world, my good friend and fellow editor, Sarah Wright, and I are on a quest to find a stellar short story that we will professionally edit—for free! She and I will be combing through the entries up until August 20, when we will select the top 5 finalists. Each finalist will receive an in-depth assessment of their piece along with a chance to win the grand prize: a package of free professional editing services for their story from Sarah and myself, plus a paperback copy of the super helpful book The Emotion Thesaurus by authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. The grand prize winner will be chosen on August 27, and their story will be featured on both Sarah’s site and mine.

RULES

1. The contest is open to those between the ages of 18 and 25. Our reason for selecting those ages, apart from federal contest and giveaway rules, is that we’ve found some of the most creative and well-written work comes from that age group. Though we love mentoring younger writers when we get the chance, the slightly older group is full of those on the brink of the delving into the world of publishing, so that’s what we’re focusing on. For those of you who aren’t quite to this age group, hang in there! We plan to make this a yearly contest, so you’ll still get your chance. Keep writing and tweaking those ideas, because next year could be your year to enter!

2. You must live in the U.S. to participate. Though we wish we could open it up to more awesome writers in the world right now—we know there are a lot of you—to comply with federal laws for shipping prizes, it must remain in the U.S. for the time being. We are, however, looking to open it up to be an international contest at some point in the future.

3. All stories must be submitted by 11:59 PM EST on July 30. After that, any entries submitted will not be considered. To enter your story, please email us at projectYAeditorial at gmail dot com, with “Project YA Editorial 2016” and the title of your piece in the subject. Please also include a short query letter in the body, along with your name (or pen name if you’d like us to use one) and email address so we can contact you in the event you are chosen as a finalist. Stories should be copied and pasted into the body of the email as well, not sent as an attachment. We will do our best to respond to each of you with our decision, but if you do not hear from us by August 15, you can safely assume that you did not progress to the next round.

4. The theme for entering this year is “Follow the White Rabbit.” We’re looking for speculative fiction stories that are 5,000 words or fewer (but not flash fiction) that use tattoos as an integral component. You can be as creative with that as you like, so long as you include elements typically found in speculative fiction and visible markings of some sort as a main element of your piece. The subgenres fantasy, science fiction, and horror are all welcome with the exception of erotica. We will not accept entries that are primarily erotic in nature, promote violence toward children, are heavily gruesome in nature, include illegal underage romances, or convey the rise or fall of the world based on the political agenda of a leader. We also will not accept fanfiction. For your story to be considered in the contest, it must follow the theme and be your original work!

5. No simultaneous submissions. One entry per person please. Only entries that have not been published or submitted elsewhere will be considered.

OTHER DETAILS

Authors will retain all rights to the piece that they submit. The goal of this campaign is to provide young writers with the resources and connections they need to hone their craft and publish their work, and this is our way of giving back to all the young writers out there who deserve a shot at publication. If you don’t meet the requirement for entering but know someone who does, please share this with them. Sarah and I both love connecting with new writers, and this a chance for them to get some free help and publicity for their work.Updates about the contest, the finalist, and the grand prize winner will posted on the Project YA Editorial page of my website, on Sarah’s website, and also on my main Tumblr blog, so be sure to bookmark one or more of those pages.

Happy writing, and good luck!

Source: Now Accepting Submissions for Project YA Editorial 2016! — Rachelle M. N. Shaw

I’m not dead yet!

There's still some life in me, even after this summer!

There’s still some life in me, even after this summer!

 

Whew! It’s been a long time since my last post–about three months, actually. But don’t fear, there’s still life in me; it’s just that summer is always hectic at my place of employment. Luckily, it is wrapping up, and we are now down to two special insert tabs, so there aren’t a lot of extra assignments to worry about on top of my normal assignments. With this in mind, I feel positive that I will be able to resume posting regularly again.

For this return post, I figured I’d update everyone on my current projects and what else I’ve been up to before returning to the regular writing-themed posts. Continue reading

Rethink rewrites

Rewrites are just taking the imperfect and making them into beautiful birds.

Rewrites are just taking the imperfect and making them into beautiful birds.

Rewrites have a negative connotation in the writing world, and when listening to some writers talk about them, you’d suspect they were on par with a root canal! I’m well up to my head in revisions for my SciFi novel right now, but you won’t catch me griping about them. Revisions and rewrites are just a natural part of the writing process. They are only as bad as you make them.

That is why I encourage fellow writers to rethink rewrites: They are your friends! Part of my equanimity toward rewrites comes from the fact that I had to literally rewrite most of my fantasy novel. I had made all my revisions, polished it up, and then BAM! My flashdrive died taking all my hard work with it. After that, rewriting small sections or even chapters is nothing. One of the things that got me through that crisis was this thought: It will be better than it was.

“It will be better than it was” should be every writer’s mantra when facing revisions and rewrites. No first draft is ever perfect. Mine are laden with spelling errors, incomplete thoughts where my fingers jumped ahead along with my brain, redundancies, repeated sentence structures, and other general errors. I type fast, and when doing that, there are going to be errors. That is OK! That is what the writing process is all about: getting words on page. And conversely the editing process is about polishing your story, catching errors, expanding on themes that you started to explore but didn’t fully give them their due, and so much more.

However, writers need to be honest with themselves when approaching revisions and rewrites. They have to accept their baby is imperfect, that sometimes they have to kill their darlings. This can be tough for some writers, particularly those new to craft. So instead of imagining yourself as a murderer, picture yourself as a momma bird; sometimes, you just have to push your babies out of the nest in order to ensure their survival and ability to thrive in a cruel world. You don’t want your book wallowing in its own filth: You want it to soar.

Perhaps, the best way to achieve that goal is to bring in an editor and beta readers. They can root out issues with a manuscript, which in turn can spark rewrites. For instance, I will be performing a partial rewrite on my first chapter. When three beta readers (one of which is a professional editor) say it’s slow, it is slow and needs addressed. Heck, when I went through my printout, I knew they were right. There are other areas that I will be addressing, too, many of which I knew were problem even before I sent out the manuscript to my beta readers; however, I knew they would offer suggestions that would get my brain fluids going and provide me with a new viewpoint: the viewpoint of a reader.

Beta readers and editors have a tendency of opening our eyes to aspects of a work that don’t work while also providing valuable insight into possible fixes or alternative directions. Without a doubt, they are valuable tools in the revision process; however, some writers take things too far and do everything beta readers say to an extreme.

To those writers, I provided these sagely words: Take all advice with a pinch of salt. Not all advice or critique will be something you want to implement into your final draft. With that said, take all critique, the good and the bad, courteously. Then, when it comes to final revisions, consider whether certain advice works with the story you are trying to tell.

The main key to rethinking revisions remains the need to switch your mindset. Editing and rewrites can be fun! They allow you to tweak or play with sections of your novel — to try something new. I will be playing with one of my later fight scenes in my SciFi novel. While rereading it via printout, it struck me as being flat, especially compared to another fight/flight scene earlier in the novel. I hope to try out several different changes in the scene to hopefully make it more exciting and suspenseful. It truly will be fun, not painful — and that is all about mindset. I know when I’m done it — not just the scene, but the novel — will be better.

So rather than focusing on the present and all the effort, which can be daunting, involved in revisions, focus on the outcome: a piece that tells a good story, is actually enjoyable for the reader, showcases your talent, and possibly gets you noticed by a publisher.

So godspeed on your edits.